weekend open thread – November 20-21, 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 Midnight Library, by Matt Haig. A woman finds a library where each book lets her enter a life she would have had if she’d made different choices along the way.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,252 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Thanksgiving ideas*

    Is anyone doing anything fun and creative for Thanksgiving this year, beyond the usual traditions? It’s just going to be a small group of us and I’m thinking about ways to do something different this year.

    Reply
    1. Loopy*

      Food-wise or activity-wise? I always like the idea of going out hiking the morning of because I know almost no one will be around. I adore experiencing nature when I know there’s no one else around.

      However, I am too in love with watching the Macy’s thanksgiving parade in the morning to switch it up- maybe one year!

      Reply
    2. Meh*

      It’s two of us. We were thinking crab legs, but 1 leg was $55 at Costco! Maybe lamb chops, leek mashed potatos or the tiktok fried potato, and homemade key lime pie.

      Reply
    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We just lost my father-in-law who we would have been spending Thanksgiving with. He was a formally trained chef who delighted in trying new things, so we’re thinking of cooking non-traditional in tribute.
      Desserts will probably be tassies so we can have all the variety without ruining our health.

      Reply
          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            With a cream cheese crust, often made in mini cupcake pans. Washington Post food writer earlier this year suggested cooking different fillings at one time, and possibilities opened up for me. Freezing mixed/uncooked filling for another bake means we don’t get desert sugar overload–but we’ll still get the variety my restaurant-running in-laws love so much.

            Reply
        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I read that too. My mother-in-law has made tassie’s for longer than I’ve known her, but she makes them in quantities large enough to serve an army, so the Post article was fantastic for me. Halving recipes? Cooking two or more kinds in one pan? Much easier to manage for those of us without years in food service!

          Reply
    4. WeekendPosting*

      I’m firmly of the opinion that there are no rules. Thanksgiving spaghetti and meatballs or pancake dinner is totally cool.

      I’m doing dinner with a friend who has young twins and is totally overwhelmed so I’m doing some more classics. I am making a cheesecake instead of a pie (friend has celiac and it’s just easier to do a gluten free Graham crackers crust than a gluten free pie crust).

      Reply
      1. Cj*

        Several decades ago when I was in high school, my mom started the tradition of having spaghetti and meatballs on Christmas Eve. Several of our friends would come over after church, and it was something she could easily make a big batch of quite cheaply. She always make extra, because we never knew who was going to show up.

        My mom was the type of mom that five of my friends called “Mom”, so we had people at our house that were invited at the last minute and joined us all the time.

        Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Thank you for this suggestion, as I had been casting around for something new to try (I am meh on all the traditional Thanksgiving foods) and dim sum would be ideal.

        Reply
    5. Anansi*

      It’s just the two of us this year, which is a bummer because it’s our favorite holiday and we usually host a big traditional Thanksgiving. Things just didn’t work out this time around (illnesses, family drama, etc.). We’ll still do a smaller traditional meal, but to make things a little more festive we’re making a fancy cocktail bar. I made a cranberry maple simple syrup and a blackberry thyme honey one yesterday, today I’ll make an orange vanilla syrup and apple cider chai.

      Reply
    6. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m doing my annual tradition of a solo overnight nature trip to see some of the two million migratory ducks, geese, sandhill cranes, tundra swans, bald eagles, and other birds that winter in California’s Central Valley. I visit wildlife refuges and the agricultural fields along the backroads, stay in a hotel, and go out at sunrise on Friday. I’ve figured out the nuances of the camera I got last year and hope to get photos.

      Except for my mom who lives in a local retirement community, my family is spread out across the country and I prefer to visit them when it’s less hectic. I see my mom all the time and it’s not a big deal to her.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This sounds wonderful. My two favorite Thanksgivings were when we were traveling, and did outdoorsy stuff all morning and then ate out.

        Reply
      2. WoodswomanWrites*

        It’s always a good trip regardless of weather because it’s almost entirely in the car since getting out tends to scare the birds away. I’ve been out there in cold rain when it’s blowing so hard that I was getting wet as soon as I cracked the window, and when the ground is covered in ice. This year is projected to be sunny and warm, quite a treat.

        Reply
    7. Theatre girl in an office world*

      This year we are going more traditional, but last year we didn’t make any of the traditional dishes, instead we made all the appetizers, sides and dessert recipes we had been considering for years. It ended up being a hilarious amount of food for the 4 of us since we tried 26 new recipes, but this year we are incorporating a few into the traditional spread.

      Reply
    8. Salymander*

      We always have a crab feast for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Huge pile of crab in the middle of the table, nice warm loaf of sourdough bread, artichokes, and a giant bowl of pomegranate seeds. Dipping sauce made with lemon, butter, capers, green onions and garlic. Dessert is pumpkin pie and cheesecake with raspberries. It is a bit strange for a holiday dinner, but I am the only one in the family who likes turkey, and at least this is really easy to put together and clean up. We all have a lot more time to just hang out together. I do miss the stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, though.

      Reply
    9. Cj*

      I just read an article yesterday on Slate about murder mystery books where you solve the murders by looking at clues in the picture and text. I watch a lot of True Crime shows, so this sounds really fun to me. If you have more than three or four people, you would probably want to get more of the same book so that people can study the pictures without looking over each others shoulders.

      There are several of these types of books on available on Amazon for between $10 and $15. If this sounds like something you’d want to do, I can look at the article again and tell you what some of the recommendations were.

      Reply
        1. Cj*

          The author and her family, which consists of her, her husband, and her ten and fourteen-year-old daughters, started With Murder Most Puzzling: 20 Mystery Cases to Solve.

          They loved it so much that they then went on to Sleuth and Solve: 20 Mind-Twisting Mysteries. It has more cartoonish illustrations, and was easier for her daughters who sometimes found the first book a little complicated. Her daughter’s couldn’t put it down, and they finished the book over the weekend.

          Her birthday was in the middle of this, and her gift from the kids was another book called Sherlock Holmes Escape Room Puzzles. They put this one away for the time being, and it is past their skill level at this point. It sounds like a good one for adults, particularly those like me who love trying to solve the true crime shows before they tell you who did it. It apparently has escape room type clues and elements to it.

          As soon as I finished reading the article, I ordered the first book for myself, along with a couple similar ones that caught my attention on Amazon. They won’t be delivered until later this week, so I can’t give you my personal opinion on them.

          Reply
          1. Cj*

            I just read the reviews on Amazon for the first book recommended, and while it got four stars overall, the people that didn’t like it said the pictures were so lavish that it was hard to identify the clues in them.

            I know you’re not the OP for this question, and maybe aren’t planning to use it for something like a group gathering at Thanksgiving, but it might not be the best one for that if you don’t want people to get frustrated or have solving a mystery take too long.

            On the other hand, one of the reviewers said that it might be okay for preteens and teenagers, put not for adults. So apparently they thought it was too easy? Which is kind of the opposite of the people that said the clues were too hard to find.

            Reply
            1. Squirrel Nutkin*

              Lawrence Block did some fun look-at-the-picture-and-solve-the-mystery books like that also — IMO not too hard.

              Reply
      1. LegalSeagull*

        Last year for Christmas my boyfriend got me “Murder at a Dive Bar” from the Hunt a Killer series of games (you can find them on amazon). They are boxes like you could play at a small murder mystery dinner with clues and photos, etc but we played it just the two of us. That series is really well done and the answer is sealed up in a bag that you have to figure out a code to get into. We had a lot of fun with it and it was challenging enough that it held our interest! I am getting them for a couple of friends this year who love true crime stuff!

        Reply
    10. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I’m visiting IL’s in Toronto so no Thanksgiving for me yet again :( Treating myself to a scalp massage, then a foot massage etc the next day.

      Reply
    11. Sally*

      My family’s tradition has always been to have dessert with coffee while we play cards. Usually we play rummy, with actual (small) bets placed. And it gets very competitive, although no one ever goes home having made more than a dollar. I don’t know if that’s “creative” but it’s always the part of Thanksgiving that’s most fun for me.

      Reply
    12. noncommital pseudonym*

      I’m doing Ethiopian this year – injera, lentil stew (yemiser w’et), mixed vegetable stew (yetakelt w’et), spinach with cottage cheese (ayib be gomen), cabbage stew, spiced tofu (tofu doro wat). It requires a fair amount of prep work. I’m doing the spiced clarified butter (niter kebbeh) and spice mix (berbere) today. The batter for the injera has to ferment for 3 days, so that gets prepped tomorrow.

      Reply
    13. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Thanksgiving for one again (thanks, pandemic)! Last year, I instacarted some turkey legs to broil in the toaster oven and made a yummy pumpkin chiffon mousse. This year, I pre-ordered some prime rib, sides. and desserts from Omaha Steaks. I’m psyched — I’ve always wanted to mail order a festive holiday meal for myself, but I’ve never done it. Before the pandemic, I experimented with doing some solo holiday meals at restaurants, and that was pleasant too.

      Reply
    14. KrazyKat44*

      Ever since we lost my maternal Grandmother, My mom, Uncle, and I would cook Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for a Large family; that can eat 3 plates before their tanks start to read full.
      My Uncle’s health hasn’t been great lately so a few years back we started going out to eat. (for Thanksgiving, Mom and I still cook for Christmas.) We go to the Cracker Burrell; Side note, my family has never been strict about having holidays on the exact date. We find a day within a week of the holiday when everyone is off, or no more then 2 people cant make it, and have it then. If everyone can be off that day that’s great, but its never been a big deal for us.

      Reply
    15. Wrench Turner*

      Just my partner and a friend of ours over for dinner that day, and we all have to work the next, and I decided I don’t feel like cooking anything at all. So if they’re open I’m getting takeout Chinese from my favorite place.

      Reply
  2. Grendel*

    Somehow I’ve ended up always being the person who watches the kids at my family’s holiday gatherings. I don’t have kids myself and I’m one of the younger adults there which is probably why they think I’m a good pick for it but sometimes I’d like to veg on the sofa with a plate of food and talk to relatives rather than being the one assigned to watch the kids while they play outside or supervise them in the basement to make sure they don’t kill each other. Everyone assumes I like doing it, there have been comments on it for years (“Grendel’s one of the kids!”) and toward the start of every gathering one of my siblings will say to their kids “Aunt Grendel will take you outside to play” and I feel unkind saying no. Is there a polite way to get out of this duty not just once but more permanently? I like the kids but mostly I would rather hang with the adults.

    Reply
    1. Pop*

      Captain Awkward has great scripts for a lot of social situations, but I think you could just address *this* year and time right now when it comes up. “Oh actually I’d like to catch up with (this person) who I haven’t seen in two years!” “It’s a bit cold outside for me; let’s see who else is available.” “I’m doing something else right now, but thanks for thinking of me!” And then stick to that. It’s polite but firm, and you’re not being unkind. If other adults get upset, THEY are being unkind by assuming you’ll do something that they also clearly do not want to do.

      Reply
    2. jtr*

      Grendel, how many siblings do you have? Would it be possible to talk to each of them, either separately or in a group text, and say, “Hey, I love your kids, but I really would like to spend holiday gatherings as a grown up! I would like to NOT be the default kid watcher from now on – can we come up with some more equitable way to manage them?”

      Charitably, your siblings maybe assume you like spending time with kids since you don’t have any of your own. Uncharitably and probably realistically, they’re taking advantage of your kind nature to get free babysitting during the holiday. I worry that if the latter is really the case, you are just going to get called selfish. :-/ But, what they are doing is decidedly not fair, and, more to the point, their kids are NOT your responsibility.

      Reply
    3. Pregnant during COVID*

      It depends on the family dynamic, but personally I wouldn’t make it a big deal. Day of, I’d hang with the adults as though of course this is what I do on holidays and when my sibling asks me to watch the kids I’d say, actually I’m going to chill with grandma/watch football/help mom with the turkey/whatever else you’d rather be doing. If they push or say “but you always do this” stay firm but kind that today this (other thing) is what I plan to do. I wonder how much of it is just “how things have always been done,” and over time your siblings will figure out another solution because their kids/their responsibility.

      Reply
    4. Maxie's Mommy*

      Grab a glass of wine soon after you arrive (just sip it). Talk about adult stuff. Say “I’m passing the torch to Susan (next mature young person), she’ll be great.”

      Reply
      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Eh, I wouldn’t do that one. It’s not “Susan”’s job either. The parents have to figure it out.

        Reply
        1. The Other Dawn*

          Agreed. If I were Susan, I’d be pretty pissed off if someone just put me on the spot and assumed I’m going to watch a bunch of kids, even though they’ve all done it to Grendel for years. It’s the parents who need to figure out child supervision. It’s not on Grendel to solve. If it were me, I’d just do what Pregnant during COVID says above.

          Reply
        2. Kate Daniels*

          Agreed! It is not fair to to put Susan in that position. Ultimately, parents need to be responsible for watching their own kids, and I’m sorry you are always being taken advantage of here for providing the free childcare while everyone else’s gets to catch up and enjoy themselves. :-/

          Reply
      2. Esmeralda*

        Absolutely not, grab a glass of wine, talk about adult stuff, say “oh, I’m sorry, I’m hanging with the other grownups today!” And let the silence hang.

        Do NOT stick some other young adult with the babysitting. That’s the parents’ job.

        Reply
    5. Sloan Kittering*

      I’d try to parse out the issue from being the youngest child-free one who is still treated like a kid (still happens to me and I’m almost 40 – there’s probably not a lot of getting out of this … my sister loves to make this joke and I know it’s coming from some bitterness about her mommylife choices – this superiority is what she’s “won” after all, for all she’s sacrificed, so I guess I can give this to her) – from the free babysitting. Babysitting would be fine if you enjoyed it, but you can also simply decline to do using the strategies others have shared. I would find a way to flag it at the very beginning so they aren’t dumbfounded in the moment, and so the kids don’t feel unwanted if dad says “go find auntie grendel” and starts ignoring them, and then you reject the role).

      Reply
      1. londonedit*

        Yeah as long as there are a few older kids and the group doesn’t necessarily need constant supervision I’d just respond with ‘Oh, I’m sure they can have fun playing by themselves!’ and go back to your conversation.

        Reply
    6. Just me*

      Hey Grendel! 1) you sound like an amazing person
      2) this happened to me a LOT and even continued after I had kids

      I’m too chicken to do anything about it myself — I just put up with it and whine privately later — but I think a combination of addressing this directly with each of your sibs ahead and the polite in-the-moment redirection would be good. Also, expect relapses

      Reply
    7. Sooda Nym*

      If it’s at all possible, I think this is something you should bring up ahead of time. Feelings of disappointment come from missed expectations, so if you can manage expectations ahead of time, that should avoid some of the hurt feelings on the actual holiday (not avoid those feelings entirely, but they might be less, and won’t spoil the day). I’d go with something like: “While I have really enjoyed all of the time I’ve been able to spend with my wonderful nieces and nephews on holidays in the past, I also feel like I’m missing out on all of the adult interactions, and I’d like to have more time to spend with (insert person/people here). I know it’s tradition for me to spend time with the kids, so I’m happy to plan one game of (tag/simon–says/favorite-game-here) and after that, you parents should plan for a way to entertain and supervise your kids, because I’m planning on spending my time with the adults this year.” I’m not sure how your actual day works: to avoid getting stuck with the kids, you might want to have your activity at the end as something to look forward to, rather than the beginning (maybe you could say “I’ll entertain the kids while everyone else does dishes…”). In any case, when you start hanging with the kids, make sure they know its a limited time, and once your time is up, unless the next adult-like person arrives to supervise, just round the kids up and bring them back to the parents.

      For this year, I would still offer up that one activity with the kids, just because the highlight of their day might be spending time with Aunt Grendel, and it would be nice if they could still get a little of that.

      Reply
      1. My Brain Is Exploding*

        I agree – came here to say something similar. Please don’t spring it on them at the last minute. Prepare yourself for a bit of pushback and some hurt feelings; Sooda Nym’s idea of planning ONE thing is great (and I’d make it where there was a definitive end point, like between dinner and dessert if there’s usually a pause there – otherwise your “relief” may fail to appear). Just use Alison’s cheerful matter-of-fact voice and refuse to argue. Good luck!

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Especially because holidays are great for putting everyone back into their roles from 20 years ago–assume the siblings just do this because they figure you like it and would be willing to change it up, but also maybe give them a few days to give their knee-jerk reaction, which they got to have in private, a good talking to.

          Sometimes people need a few days to reset. And then they do, and everyone moves on.

          Reply
        2. Despachito*

          “Please don’t spring it on them at the last minute”

          Why not? They do not bother to spring it on HER, do they? Do THEY tell her in advance that they would want her to babysit? I very much doubt it.

          I like the polite wording “your kiddos are awesome but I want to spend some time with Grandma and Uncle Jack, too,” and politeness also smoothens the interaction, but I do not think she owes them anything more, like a sufficient advance notice or something.

          Reply
          1. lasslisa*

            I think the fact that she’s bringing this up as an established expectation means it’s, well, established. If auntie em always brings the pies for 15 years, it’s kind for her to let folks know in advance she’s not able to do it this year. People are creatures of habit and recognizing this so they have time to come up with another plan in advance will make a lot of things go more smoothly.

            Reply
            1. Despachito*

              With the difference that Auntie Em VOLUNTEERS to bring the pies (and in that case, it would indeed be kind of her to give the others a heads up) , but I do not have an impression that Grendel has ever offered herself to do that, rather she’s been voluntold.

              Of course I understand:

              1) the merits of family bonding
              2) the parents’ need to have a rest from their kids
              3) we can assume that Grendel has not pushed back for fear of making waves, and they may genuinely think that Grendel actually likes it

              BUT:

              once they learn that 3) is not the case, it would be insanely rude of them to think of Grendel as of their unpaid babysitter, and it is up to THEM to arrange things around their kids, because they are THEIR kids, not Grendel’s. If they act hurt because Grendel wants to have some family time with her adult relatives, it would be incredibly selfish and entitled, and it would be Grendel who’d have every right to be angry.

              Hopefully they are decent people and not entitled mental toddlers, and will understand.

              Reply
              1. Tali*

                Yeah but maybe Auntie Em doesn’t feel like making a pie this year, and everyone who had looked forward to it is disappointed. They understand, but they still wish there had been pie.

                The kids might also misunderstand and think that Grendel doesn’t want to play with them. Better that the parents are clear on Grendel’s expectations in advance and can divert the kids smoothly.

                Rather than creating a situation which would end in Grendel justifiably angry and her loved ones confused and hurt, why not create a situation where Grendel has a good time and her loved ones are not confused?

                Reply
          2. MoreFriesPlz*

            Exactly. There nothing to spring. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of a warning for not doing a favor that you haven’t even been asked to do.

            Reply
      2. o_gal*

        No, don’t offer one activity. Don’t offer anything. They will tell the kids to do that activity first, then they’ll all disappear, leaving you with the kids again. Contact the parents ahead of time and say that this year, you want to do adult interactions and spend more time with (insert person/people here). So they need to bring some activities/toys/games/videos that they know will keep the kids occupied. In order to make this work, you’re also going to have to do a complete cutoff, otherwise the parents will see you with the kids and again, disappear and leave you with them.

        You could offer to do something after dinner, when there might be a little bit of time before everyone heads home or to bed. That way the kids get time with Aunt Grendel but you can’t be stuck with them.

        Reply
        1. Salymander*

          Yes, I agree with this. Even if you talk about it ahead of time with the adults, you have to be careful to enforce boundaries on the day. If they see you taking care of the kids, the parents will all disappear. If you want to bring an activity, let it be one that the kids can do on their own.

          I had this same issue, and the parents weaseled out of their agreement to watch their own kids every chance they had. They whined about it to me and behind my back. They tried to guilt me about it in front of the kids. It was very annoying, and made it hard to remember that these are members of my family and I really love them. Fortunately, the worst offenders were at Christmas, and I took care of the issue by bringing a vast amount of christmas cookies and candy and a twister game to distract the kids. I had my leg in a cast over that holiday, so I couldn’t play twister. The only place where the kids had enough room to play twister without being in the way was in the basement, and it was too hard for me to keep going up and down stairs with my crutches, so the parents of the kids had to take turns supervising. There were so many treats on the two enormous platters I brought that the adults had to keep the kids downstairs and away from the kitchen. I made sure to repeatedly mention how nice it was to finally have a chance to sit down and chat with the adults in the family rather than being exiled to the basement. It was a foolproof plan.

          Reply
        2. BadCultureFit*

          If my siblings without kids called me in advance of a holiday to warn me that they didn’t want to hang out with my kids at a holiday and so I better “bring toys to keep them occupied” I would either laugh until my face fell off, or never speak to them again. That feels like a wildly offensive approach for something that’s not that serious!

          OP, just tell them as it happens. ‘Actually I wanted to chat with grandma for a bit, and then I’ve been tapped to bake the pies. Have fun!’

          Reply
          1. anonforthis*

            I mean, if these parents aren’t already thinking ahead and bringing toys to keep their younger kids occupied they’re kind of bad parents.

            Reply
            1. Tabby*

              See, I’m wondering the same thing. BCF would be…. offended…. if someone told them to find a way to occupy their children instead of foisting them on a sibling?

              Huh.

              That, my good people, is why I don’t deal with parents very much. Getting offended because I don’t want to be bothered with your offspring is weird. If it’s not that serious, why would you be upset, hon? Is it because you feel entitled to other people’s time and attention for your children?

              Because that’s exactly what that reads as.

              Reply
              1. Louisa*

                No, it’s because pre-emptively telling people you don’t want to hang out with certain relatives at a family gathering is rude and kinda weird, whether they’re kids or Great Aunt Lucy who talks about her cats too much. Casually deflecting when it happens is likely much easier.

                Reply
                1. anonforthis*

                  I don’t think anyone suggested this? Just that she warn people in advance that she won’t be looking after other people’s kids.

                2. Tabby*

                  It is not at all rude or weird for an adult to preemptively say, “No, I do not want to hang out with the children.” Especially when they are being pushed to do so against their will.

                  It’s really weird to see so many people with such an entitled attitude anout this. Grendel doesn’t want to be the babysitter/hang out with the children. She should say so, politely and firmly. The parents should arrange to take that task in shifts, period.

                3. Esmeralda.*

                  No, she’s preemptively telling you to not count on free babysitting.

                  There’s a difference between announcing I don’t want to spend time with X and Y people, and announcing that I don’t want to babysit your kids.

                  I do agree, however, that there’s no need to announce ahead of time. Address it in the moment.

          2. Despachito*

            But you do not dump your kids on your childless siblings expecting them to be your unpaid babysitters for the whole time, I suppose?

            Reply
          3. Mademoiselle Sugarlump*

            Easy for you to say it’s “not that serious” – you have someone who takes the kids off your hands every holiday, right? Well, she’s tired of doing it.

            Reply
          4. Dr Sarah*

            I certainly wouldn’t phrase it as ‘don’t want to hang out with the kids’, but, yes, I think a heads-up that she’s not going to be the one *looking after* the kids this time is polite and appropriate.

            Reply
      3. jtr*

        YESYESYES!! Otherwise, you risk being the one who RUINED CHRISTMAS!!11!! Seriously, my SIL still gives my DH shit about ruining Christmas the year he asked her to control her youngest, because he had THROWN HIS SHOE at Grandma. She had a crying fit and hid in the bedroom for the rest of the day.

        No matter how reasonable a request, setting a boundary at an actual event will probably cause all the feelings to come out.

        Reply
    8. Anony*

      I get that you want this to stop forever, but instead of going to “I never want to do this again,” it might be easier to just try to address the next holiday gathering. You can let the other adults know that you’ve had a long month, you’ve been busy at work, or whatever, and this Thanksgiving you’re planning to take some time to relax on the couch. Sometimes a little humor goes a long way too, but be firm – “Nope, Aunt Grendel’s on couch duty this year!” Then don’t move from the couch. I think sometimes it’s easier to just let things slide into a new normal by setting boundaries instead of having conversations about it.

      Reply
      1. Tuesday*

        Yes, I think just worry about this year now, and once you’re not the person who ALWAYS watches the kids, it will be easier the next time. I don’t think it has to be a big conversation either. Maybe just an “actually, I was hoping to stay in this year — I’m about to get something to eat/check in with Great Aunt Sue/whatever.” And then immerse yourself in something else.

        Reply
      2. Malarkey01*

        I think this is best. It’s setting expectations for this year but also breaking the old habits and sort of cushions the change (which yes people will say you shouldn’t have to do but this is family, a holiday, and it’s just easier on you to gradually transition). Then next year of course you aren’t the child wrangling because everyone saw you as an adult this year.

        Reply
    9. T. Boone Pickens*

      My response would be determined on how often I see said relatives. If I only saw these people once or twice a year my response would be when you start getting volun-told for duties would be simply, “No thanks.”’ That’s literally it. If these are folks you see regularly like monthly, maybe a more elaborate script is needed. Maybe I’m just cynical, comfortable with conflict and truly don’t care what people I barely see think of me but I’d be hard pressed to care about my sibling who I rarely see getting bent out of shape because I won’t watch their kid.

      Reply
    10. Generic Name*

      How old are the children involved? If they are school age or older, in my opinion, they don’t need an adult within arms reach at all times while they are in a house full of their parents and other adult relatives. My friend group and I have (in the past, sigh) had numerous parties where the kids play outside or in the basement while the adults hang in the den. If something goes wrong, one kid (at least) will go get a parent. If a parent isn’t comfortable having their kid be in a room without an adult, it’s not your job to supervise. I’m guessing your family thinks you like it. It’s totally ok, and even necessary even to say no to a child. You can go watch their antics for a few mins and then rejoin the adults.

      Reply
      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this is so true. Toddlers and babies need constant supervision, maybe until about age 5 or so depending on the kid. Older than that, they can hang out by themselves, as long as there are at least a few tweens in the group. If a kid older than about 7 needs constant supervision, they almost undoubtedly have some sort of neurological issue that means it’s unfair to ask family members to take that on anyway, those kids should be the responsibility of the parents, or professional caregivers.

        In my friend group, young kids hung out with the adults until they were old enough, and felt secure enough in a noisy environment, to join the older kids. Certainly now that even the youngest are in school, it’s not a problem.

        Reply
    11. RagingADHD*

      Just have a conversation in advance with your siblings about swapping off so you get a chance to visit with the rest of the family. We got blindsided by a (married with kids) sibling who had invited our kids to accompany their family on a traditional outing every year for ten years, and then blew up because we were “dumping” our kids on them and “assuming” they were okay with it.

      Well, yeah. When you do the same thing for years, people will assume you like it, because otherwise a mature adult would use their words.

      If you repeatedly expressed (or feigned) enthusiasm for hanging with the littles in the past, people are going to keep going with it until you let them know you want a change. And if the kids theselves are excited to see you and chatter about how much fun they had with Aunt Grendel, the parents will believe it’s a treat for them, too.

      There are a lot of parents who encourage their kids to spend time with other relatives, not because they are lazy and selfish, or don’t want to be around their own kids, but so that there is a network of direct relationships in the family that aren’t filtered through the parents. It’s healthy for kids to connect with and trust many different grownups. The flip side of that is that it’s better for all the aunts & uncles to be taking turns, not just the ones who don’t have kids. So speak up, but please assume the best instead of assuming the worst when you do.

      Unless you already know your family are nasty selfish hateful people, then just give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re defaulting to this pattern because they believe you enjoy it too.

      Reply
      1. Not a cat*

        As a child-free person, I have found that friends and family LOVE to dump their kids on me at gatherings and if I agree to do something ( for instance, take the kids to see all the Christmas lights) once, it’s assumed that I’ll do it every year, for all eternity. Parents have that knack.

        Reply
        1. RagingADHD*

          I’m sorry you have such difficult relationships with your relatives that you can’t have a normal conversation about what you do or don’t want to do. Parents are not a separate species. They are your family members. Your ability to communicate with each other didn’t magically change when they gave birth.

          Reply
          1. BadCultureFit*

            Exactly! My god, some of the suggestions in this thread demonstrate why we as a species can’t have nice things.

            Reply
          2. Vesper*

            That’s true, but some family member perspectives change when a child is born that the child is the centre of the universe.

            Reply
            1. RagingADHD*

              If you could talk things out before, you can talk things out after. If not, that’s not parenthood, it’s a character / relationship issue. If they never had a baby, you’d have the same conflict about something else.

              Reply
        2. Clisby*

          That was not my experience, when I was the unmarried one without kids and occasionally took my nieces and nephews somewhere. My siblings wouldn’t have dreamed of *expecting* it.

          Reply
      2. anonforthis*

        It’s kind of harsh to imply that OP is “immature” when it seems like she is accommodating to her relatives. IMO, her relatives should never have been requesting she look after the kids in the first place. It’s different from your situation because it sounds like your sibling proactively offered, rather than saying yes to something you requested.

        Reply
    12. Theatre girl in an office world*

      I think definitely bring it up ahead of time with the parents. They will be expecting it and their kids may be expecting it, the time to let them know that you are not ok with it is today.

      Reply
      1. BadCultureFit*

        Genuinely trying to imagine a scenario where a sibling calls up another sibling and says “hey, happy thanksgiving, but I don’t want to hang out with my nieces and nephew this thanksgiving. So I’m just letting you know to not ask me.’

        Y’all are cold as ice. These are your family members. Play with the kids for a few mins and then tag grandpa in. Sheesh.

        Reply
        1. RagingADHD*

          Meh, there’s a difference between not wanting to spend the entire day babysitting and not wanting to play with the kids at all.

          In a lot of families people could just tag in or out, or just say in the moment “Hey, I want to talk to Grandma right now.” But the OP sounds like this is a very fixed role that’s been going on the same way for a long time, and in families with really rigid roles and expectations it’s helpful to talk stuff out instead of trying to make changes on the fly.

          If this family was good at communicating and making changes on the fly, OP wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.

          Reply
        2. Tabby*

          Ive met many parents who presume that any single woman with no children wants to spend an inordinate amount of time with children. It’s very odd and aggravating.

          I am fortunate that my family learned not to try this. But it took a lot of irritated commentary from me to get it to stop — and it’s precisely this dismissive and petulant tone that caused my annoyance, becno, I actually DON’T want to play with the children, not even for a few minutes. I have no interest in that. Doesn’t make me cold; just makes me uninterested in playing with children. I didn’t have kids on purpose, why try to force me to fo this?

          Reply
          1. Sc@rlettNZ*

            Exactly this. Why would people assume that if you don’t have kids you are desperate to babysit them? The very reason I don’t have kids is because I find them irritating. I don’t have a maternal bone in my body.

            OP, I wouldn’t phone your siblings beforehand because that will make it into a big deal when it doesn’t need to be. Just make yourself unavailable/uninterested. Several posters up thread have given good examples of wording to use. Good luck!

            Reply
            1. Venus*

              And I can nearly guarantee you they don’t have this attitude with single men.

              My cousin has decided that I hate children because I don’t love all of them, but if he took a few minutes then he would see that I like children based on their personalities, same as with adults. Or maybe he has noticed but doesn’t want to admit that their child is a brat!

              Reply
        3. Batgirl*

          But they aren’t tagging grandpa in. They’re doing the exact opposite and tagging in the young woman because young women “love” it so much they can do it all night.

          Reply
    13. Dancing Otter*

      Who hosts, your parents still? Call them ahead of time to discuss the matter. “Mom, I’m X years old now. Don’t you think it’s time I got to spend time with the adults on holidays, instead of playing with the children?” You’re not still being seated at the children’s table, I trust?
      If you can enlist someone who can take your side, or even head this off entirely, that will help a lot.

      Reply
      1. Tabby*

        Literally, most children aggravate me, as do most adults. I’m not much of a people person, and when you add in small and erratic and demanding, with no sense of personal space? Hell to the no. I cannot.

        But because I am short, feminine, and reasonably warm in general, I simply MUST enjoy children, according to society. Fonk dat.

        Reply
    14. AlabamaAnonymous*

      The immature childish part of me would like to suggest that you fake an injury .. arrive at the dinner with your arm in a sling or using crutches. That would guarantee you won’t be tasked with child care :-) Of course, that would bring a whole raft of other problems! But it would be one way out.

      Reply
    15. Anono-me*

      Maybe try saying “No thank you.” as if you are turning down a nice treat being kindly offered rather than having a chore dumped on you. Think sort of a ‘Oh, that is so sweet of you, but no thank you; you go ahead and have fun with the kids.’ vibe.

      This can work well for other chores dumps also. (Learned it this watching a cube neighbor use this on a coworker who liked to offload all of the scut work. It was a thing of beauty. )

      Reply
    16. Caroline Bowman*

      The way to wriggle out of that is to *beforehand* contact the usual suspects and say ”I’m so looking forward to seeing you etcetera etcetera, who’s bringing what blah blah” and then say ”just a heads-up because I don’t want to make anyone feel bad at the time, but I’m kind of over kid duty this year. I’m really keen to see and play with the kids of course, but I want to join everyone on the couch / doing the washing up, so I won’t be taking the kids out to play, someone else can do that”.

      Be kind and nice, but very clear. Be prepared for pushback. ”Oh I thought you *loved little Susie and Jimmy*”. Cheerfully and firmly respond ”yes I do, and I also love Bob and Sandy and the other adults. I want to hang with them, thanks for understanding!”.

      Reply
    17. Patty Mayonnaise*

      I think calling family members in advance to warn them will turn this into a much bigger deal than just saying no in the moment. I’d also suggested getting to the party late or the last possible second of “on time” so that hopefully the kids have already started playing and you will only have to decline playing with them once (as opposed to repeatedly saying no each time more kids arrive).

      Reply
      1. anonforthis*

        Not that this isn’t good advice, but depending on how the communication pans out, I can see some relatives viewing a “No” as rude. Basically, I can see how OP got into this pattern. They probably just got the “hey can you watch my kid?” getting sprung on them and just agreed without thinking, and the relatives continued to do it.

        I still agree OP should use her words and say no, but some of the commenters on this thread don’t seem to understand why some people are afraid this might cause conflict and be hesitant to say it. It all just depends on the family dynamics.

        Also, IMO, the relatives choose to believe that OP “loves” watching the kids because it benefits them. Parents should never assume that anyone loves babysitting their kids all the time. Even for loving aunts, it is work.

        I guess I kind of sympathize with the OP because growing up, I was always “asked” to look after the little kids of my parents’ friends whenever they came over for dinner. That being said, I was around 12 and probably didn’t feel like I could say no to the adults without being scolded by my mom for being rude. But idk…it is kind of entitled to ask other people to watch your kids.

        Reply
        1. Tabby*

          This! It’s a thing — the entitled attitude that others must watch children they didn’t make. Too much of the “It takes a village!” Lissen, I didn’t agree to be part of the village of child minders, stop asking. I’ve found that telling people that it’s $20 for half an hour, for the bare minimum make sure they’re alive (no real interaction, literally just they’re going to be in a room, and I won’t let them injest anything detrimental to their survival) put a stop to it QUICK, though.

          My time costs money, people. A lot of it. I’m done being the forced free babysitter as I was as a teenager. Nope, nope, nope.

          Reply
        2. Might Be Spam*

          Growing up, I was always expected to watch all of the other kids and I hated it. When my sister-in-law tried to have my daughter supervise relatives’ kids, I made it clear it wasn’t going to happen. I knew that if I allowed it once, she would be assigned that role forever. Also, the in-laws’ kids were very high energy and I didn’t want her to be held responsible for their behavior.

          Reply
          1. Tabby*

            Oh man, SO MUCH THIS. I hated it SO MUCH. And even worse, one year I was supposed to be in charge of my cousin, PLUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSSSSSS my uncle’s dumbass girlfriend who was literally 40 years old to my 14. Bruh why am I parenting a grown ass woman? This makes sense to you? I’m supposed to stop a grownass woman from buying and using fireworks because she’s a little slow? WHY ARE YOU DEALING WITH HER, HOMIE?

            ….. I seriously am starting to wonder how I managed to survive my family. *facepalm*

            Reply
        3. Patty Mayonnaise*

          Just to clarify, I said “say no in the moment” but I was actually thinking of OP using the deflection techniques people were discussing above (“I’m doing X right now”), which, uh, was not clear at all from my comment :) I agree the family dynamics matter a lot!

          Reply
          1. Tabby*

            Oh, no, you were clear, Patty! I just happened to remember a particularly egregious instance of being parentified at 14 — while in the company of an adult who was allegedly A PARENT. I readily acknowledge my family is dysfunctional, and it’s a wonder that I merely have anxiety and depression, and can still mostly function reasonably.

            And I am continually surprised that I seem to be very comforting to LBGTQIA youthfor my ability to simply accept them with zero difficulty. I’d like to say it’s because I worked at it, but really, I just cannot fathom why I wouldn’t.

            Reply
    18. anonforthis*

      I think a lot of people gave good advice on here. I just want to add a PSA to parents that always assume that people who watch your children are doing you a *favor*, even if they don’t say it. Most people are too polite to admit they don’t love watching your kids all the time. Of course, many relatives may like it, but they still may not love spending an entire evening designated for socializing watching after kids. I would just assume that upfront.

      Reply
    19. Esmeralda*

      BTDT. We used to share a vacation beach house with my husbands extended family. We got tired of being the babysitters… there was rather a shock the day we were lounging on the beach and his cousin’s little kids came rushing out and announced “mom said you’d take us in the water.” I got up, told the kids to follow me, marched back into the house , caught the cousin before she headed out for the morning, and said, “(name), the kids thought we’d take them in the water but we can’t do that today. Sorry!” And walked out. I had a talk with cousin later, stating that I didn’t mind watching the kids once in awhile, but that she had to ask not assume and it was every day — babysitting was not my plan for my vacation.

      Aunt Grendel , no one is making you take care of the kids. Just say no. Every time. And at some point, when the kids aren’t around, talk to the others and say just what you wrote: “I like the kids, but I’m not a kid. I’d rather hang out with the adults. And to be honest, I’m on vacation too and don’t want to spend it babysitting “

      Reply
    20. Dr Sarah*

      I’d recommend addressing this in advance. I know there are a lot of things that are best addressed when they come up, but, as a parent myself, I can tell you that if I’m going somewhere where no-one will be able to help out with the kids, I’d much rather know that ahead of time than be hit with it just when I think I’m going to get a break.

      So, I’d think best to send an e-mail around the family saying “Hey, this year can we sort out an arrangement ahead of time for who keeps an eye on the kids on the day? I really need a break and to be able to veg out, so I won’t do it this year. Anyone else want to volunteer, or do you want to figure out a rota/all chip in and hire someone to come round and do the job?”

      And then be very politely firm about deflecting any attempts to guilt you into it (very much second the advice to read Captain Awkward on the general subject of setting boundaries when people aren’t happy with it) and also ready to give the “No, as I said in my e-mail I can’t do it this year” speech to anyone who’s cheeky enough to try lumbering you with it on the day anyway.

      Reply
  3. Jean (just Jean)*

    Wow! Never expected to be the first commenter. Happy weekend, everybody. Here’s my cheerful, conversation-starting question: What reminds you that you are _____ (insert positive adjective here, e.g., capable, caring, creative, decisive, empathetic, lovable, loving, smart … )?
    My current answer: My recent haircut reminds me that I am decisive and able to shape my life, the same way I hired someone to shape my hair.
    Okay, wise commenters. Your turn.

    Reply
    1. Hotdog not dog*

      Bright colors remind me that I am important. Years ago, a friend pointed out that many women (we are both women) wear black or neutral colors, which can make them fade into the background. Even if it’s just a tiny accessory, wearing a pop of bright color can remind us that we are deserving of people’s focus and we aren’t just part of the background scenery. Of course, this doesn’t only apply to women. We are all bright and beautiful and deserving of attention.

      Reply
      1. Loopy*

        I love this! I am an all-black wearer because I’m lazy in regard to fashion and it’s just so easy, but I inherited a bunch of super fun, large earrings from my grandmother I adore wearing. I always get compliments on them, they are always noticed and it’s so lovely! I’ve developed my own love for dangly, shiny, fun earrings thanks to getting hers.

        Reply
        1. Pippa K*

          A while ago someone here mentioned a friend’s (I think?) new website, Big Earrings. I don’t even wear big earrings often, but I love this little business. Some vintage, some recent, all fabulous. Also inexpensive. I’ve no connection with the seller at all, just a happy customer and thought you might like it too.

          Reply
        2. Filosofickle*

          And your all black is a perfect canvas for amazing accessories! They get to shine without competition. My problem is I buy bright, statement everything and that gets a little challenging…

          Reply
      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I love bright colors. Despite growing up in NYC I was never a “wearing all black” kind of person. I’m only now getting into wearing a few black pieces here and there but generally I gravitate towards brights, florals, pinks. etc. Its funny b/c that always broke all the fashion rules back then (i.e., choose solid dark colors for “slimming” lines).

        Reply
    2. walking dictionary*

      Every time I mess up a crochet project, trying again and again until I figure out what I did wrong and fixing it reminds me that I am tenacious.

      Crocheting gloves for my mom because she hates the cold (even though she didn’t ask) reminds me that I am caring.

      Reply
    3. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

      Discussing my writing with friends reminds me that I am capable and creative, because other people find what I have to say interesting.

      Reply
  4. Jean (just Jean)*

    As long as I’m the first commenter, I’ll launch a seasonal variation of the small joys question. Name something small for which you are thankful, and another thing for which you hope.

    I’m thankful for having already made yogurt at home at least once. Hopefully this will become “at least twice” by Sunday evening.

    Reply
    1. German Girl*

      Ok I’ll put a small one here and a big one in the next comment.

      I’m thankful that I took the time to make cookies with my kid. It was way less chaos and more fun than I anticipated, so I hope we’ll do it again this season.

      Reply
      1. German Girl*

        And now for the big one:

        I’m so thankful that I’ve found my wonderful ballet teacher, who has also become one of my best friends over the last couple of years. We’ve supported eachother through my pregnancy and her studio being closed because of covid and on top of that she’s also by far best teacher I’ve ever had and she’s constantly looking to get a deeper understanding of her work and it’s super fascinating to discuss it with her and an absolute joy to dance with her.
        So I hope that we’ll continue like this forever.

        Reply
    2. Hotdog not dog*

      I am thankful for my teenage son, who is turning out to be a kind and caring human. I hope he continues to attract other kind people into his circle of friends.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader*

        huh. onions, yeah, must be an onion near by….

        Thank you for sharing this it’s a beautiful thing to see.

        Reply
    3. Laura H.*

      I’m thankful for grocery delivery. Worth the convenience when there’s no way I can go physically by my brother’s advised “next two days” to grab thanksgiving stuff.

      I hope for things to pan out in the best way with the renovation that starts in earnest this week.

      Reply
    4. walking dictionary*

      I’m thankful for my pocket dictionary, which is full of interesting words I like to work into my conversation and watch people trying to figure out what I mean.

      I’m hopeful that winter ends quickly. Where I live, it’s gloomy all day, every day, and it’s forever rainy.

      Reply
    5. Voluptuousfire*

      I’m thankful for kitty cuddles. My cat has taken to snuggling with me in bed. She lays next to the pillow and me, wedging herself in just so. Or she sits and stares at me 4 inches from my face. It’s both wonderful and creepy to know my cat both adores me that much. Adopting my little solid sausage was the best thing I ever did.

      Reply
    6. Clisby*

      I’m thankful that we are close to the end of Atlantic hurricane season with nary a sign of a hurricane even nearing Charleston.

      I am thankful my 2nd cataract surgery went as well as my first, and for the first time in years and years (and years) I can walk around without glasses.

      Reply
    7. the cat's ass*

      I’m thankful my DD had a great birthday! Hopefully this trip around the sun will be less fraught for her and everyone else!

      Reply
    8. Dark Macadamia*

      It’s not small but I’m thankful my older kid is finally eligible for the Covid vaccine and will be able to go to school in person next semester! I’m hopeful that having her out of the house will give my younger kid more opportunities to get out and do fun preschooler things since we’ve been really limited by the remote learning situation for the past year and a half.

      Reply
    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Thankful: That my kids and spouse go out and have adventures I physically can’t, and send me pictures.
      Hope: That trying a totally different Thanksgiving menu works out and we can launch a new tradition.

      Reply
    10. Overeducated*

      I’m thankful that on this quiet (quarantined) weekend at home, I am getting some all too rare quality time with my wonderful older kid.

      I hope none of us have covid.

      Reply
    11. Biology dropout*

      Thankful that my older, high-risk kid got her first vaccine!! And that my partner and I will both be boosted as of next week. Hopeful that the younger one will be able to follow suit soon

      Reply
    12. Potatoes gonna potate*

      Small – well not so small. I’ve had a week from hell, and my SIL (brother’s wife) has been such a huge blessing. and she said “I’m really glad (my brother) has a sister, I don’t think I could handle it if he had only brothers.”

      I grew up with no sisters and felt such loneliness. Usually girls with sisters couldn’t really relate, but she has a sister she’s close to, so to hear this from her brought a tear to me. I’m glad she’s a part of my life, I’m glad she married my brother and is helping raise his kids.

      Reply
      1. Lady Danbury*

        Related, I’m grateful that both of my siblings have married lovely people who I love, respect and enjoy spending time with. We have fun hanging out one on one, as well as with their spouses/other family members. I have a sister and a brother, so neither was a new experience, but both are a great fit with my siblings and the wider family. I also appreciate that they’re excellent parents to my nieces and nephews.

        Reply
    13. star*

      Thankful for two days of fun with two friends over the weekend.
      Hope to increase the social aspects of my life in the next year.

      Reply
    14. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

      I am thankful that I have friends who are finding ways to stay connected and include me in their lives at a distance, especially when every time I plan to travel to see them something happens to disrupt those plans. Hopefully I will be able to get things squared away in the next year so that I can see them all in 2022.

      Reply
  5. Pass The Gravy*

    I posted at the end of October about how I’d always done Thanksgiving with my dad’s family since I was a kid and now in my 30s was thinking of changing it to spend the holiday with my mom‘s family who I am much closer to. It’s brought out a lot of comments and some shockingly enthusiastic ones who told me I was being selfish and neglecting my obligations as a daughter. I wanted to let everyone know that I talked to my dad this week. I said how this year I was thinking I would like to go to my moms family to spend Time with my grandmother, who has been stuck in an assisted living center under strict lockdown rules for the last year and a half and has barely seen anyone. Dad didn’t hesitate at all, he agreed that I should do that; he said it was important that I spend time with my grandmother. I said that I could come down the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend to have dinner with him and my stepmom and he loved that idea.

    I appreciated all the comments I got last time, Though less so the ones who called me childish and selfish. I don’t know why the desire to see one family over another at a holiday gathering brought out so many people the waved around family obligation like it was the law. I simply had a gentle conversation, and it all worked out. My relationship with my father is not in shambles; he is very excited that I am still coming down and we’ll have a quiet gathering outside of the giant family party where there is little to do but watch my uncle cheat at the croquet tournament every year (which could be an entire post onto itself). I will get to spend Thanksgiving with relatives I am closer to, including my grandmother. I don’t know what next year will bring: if my brother and sister will be back, if my dad and stepmother will decide to travel, if I decide that after two year break I want to go back to normal. For now, I am just happy with the results of this year.

    Reply
    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Thanks for the update with such positive news. It sounds like you’ll have a lovely holiday weekend. And now I’m curious about how one cheats at croquet. :)

      Reply
      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If you hadn’t told us you don’t like science fiction and fantasy, I would be sending you to Connie Willis “To Say Nothing of the Dog” for the croquet interlude. It has a lovely, aggressive cheater.

        Reply
    2. Blue Eagle*

      Glad to hear that your talk with your Dad went so well and that you will have the opportunity to enjoy the holiday with a different branch of your family. Just ignore the haters, they probably have their own family dynamic problems and are taking it out on you.

      Reply
    3. allathian*

      Glad to hear the conversation went so well and you got your dad’s enthusiastic approval for what you wanted to do, and would’ve done, anyway. You mentioned that you wanted to see your grandmother, and didn’t say anything about his extended family, and that was absolutely the right way to go about it. Happy Thanksgiving!

      Reply
    4. Hotdog not dog*

      Our family celebrates Thanksgiving twice. Once on the actual day and once about a week or so prior. Some of us go to one, and some go to the other. (A few of us go to both) There are different hosts, for example this year my mother hosted early Thanksgiving and I will be hosting actual Thanksgiving. That way the same person doesn’t carry the whole burden and people with inlaws, outlaws, or scheduling conflicts can get to participate. Everyone brings a side, a dessert, or a bottle of wine. The host cooks the turkey and gets to keep any leftover wine.

      Reply
    5. Somewhere in Texas*

      I love that you followed what you wanted to do and didn’t let angry internet people sway your decision.

      I’ve noticed that as we grow, traditions change. And the ability to calmly have conversations about what we want gives those we love the opportunity to mix things up with those same conversations down the road. Enjoy your time this week!

      Reply
      1. It's Growing!*

        “I’ve noticed that as we grow, traditions change.”

        This year I am slowly making my way to a big change: I’m not going to use the beautiful china and sterling silver; it requires so much in hand washing afterwards. Never have we had Thanksgiving without china and silver, and it’s a shocker, but I’m pretty sure I’d rather use the mechanical dishwasher and not the willing family members who spend an hour or more on hand wash. I’m pretty sure no one cares but me, but still…change.

        Reply
        1. Hotdog not dog*

          Our family made the switch from China to fun-patterned dishes from the dollar store and Thrift shop. The table looks as festive as ever, and the whole shebang goes in the dishwasher at the end. If something accidentally breaks, it’s not emotionally fraught like it is if Great Grandmother’s treasured gravy boat gets dropped on a tile floor. (Which is not coincidentally how I convinced my family to switch to the sturdy stuff).

          Reply
        2. Lady Danbury*

          My mom has multiple sets of china and sterling silver (hers, her mom’s, etc). We put it in the dishwasher all the time with no issues. There’s a china setting for a reason! That may not be an option for you for whatever reason but just throwing it out there that it can be done.

          Reply
          1. I take tea*

            My mother switched all her cutlery to silver and puts it all in the dishwasher. Apparently you can do that as long as you don’t mix it with stainless steel.

            Reply
        3. Random Biter*

          I saved all of my Mom’s Christmas dinnerware and while I still do use a few pieces my daughter has always insisted on Chinette and paper napkins, especially when the grandmonsters were little. I’d really like to have a Christmas dinner where I could use all of it, but the group keeps getting smaller and smaller as folks move, marry, pass away or form their own traditions. Remembering the holiday dinners from my grandparents’ time (a sheet of plywood over the pool table served as the kids’ table there were so many of us) it just kind of makes me wistfully sad ::sigh::

          Reply
      2. Caroline Bowman*

        100% this. Dynamics shift. It doesn’t mean that because we all used to go to Uncle Mo’s house for Thanksgiving and Cousin Fred’s for Christmas Eve, that that is cast in stone. Why would it be?

        Traditions evolve and shift, people age, health changes, those two things alone are reason enough to keep things fluid.

        Reply
    6. WellRed*

      Yay! I didn’t understand all the drama other commenters flung at you. Your situation is very typical. Happy Thanksgiving!

      Reply
    7. Duquesne*

      Really delighted you’re doing what you want to do *and* your Dad is on board with it. I remember the hard time you got in the comments section and couldn’t understand it at all – grown ups are allowed to make their own decisions! Enjoy the holidays.

      Reply
    8. Falling Diphthong*

      This afternoon is my mother’s funeral, after she entered assisted living this summer following a stroke. Definitely prioritize a chance to see her. (I also have been very happy to finally see a beloved aunt and uncle again, after their assisted living facility was pretty locked down for a year.)

      I really like visiting off holidays, as there is more of a chance to do what everyone wants, rather than what ritual demands.

      As I posted to Grendel upthread re Thanksgiving traditions, sometimes people are willing to be very reasonable and change things up–but it can help to give them some notice to deal with the knee-jerk “but that’s not the way we usually do it.”

      Reply
    9. Tuesday*

      That’s great. Sounds like you handled it really well. As with Grendel above, I think you’re right that it’s better to worry about this year and see what comes later, rather than trying to find a way to say, I NEVER WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN.

      Reply
    10. Generic Name*

      Yes! I love it when a situation gets resolved with a conversation and everyone involved acts like a rational adult. It seems like that’s so rare these days. :) I too was shocked at the posts telling you that you are a “bad daughter” for daring to have needs and preferences.

      Reply
    11. Lotus*

      I’m so happy things worked out!

      I was also surprised to see some of comments on that thread. I didn’t see anything wrong with your original question. I feel like I’m really bad at predicting which topics end up being controversial among AAM commenters.

      Reply
    12. Rainy*

      Many congratulations for a successful conversation with your father, and many more for doing what you want! :) I’m really pleased that you felt empowered to say something and that it worked out.

      Reply
    13. Wishing You Well*

      I’m VERY GLAD you’re going to change things up this year for Thanksgiving!
      I hope more people will experiment with holiday changes to see what’s best for them. People change, circumstances change. It’s natural to adjust holiday traditions in response.
      GOOD FOR YOU!

      Reply
    14. Elle Woods*

      Thanks for the update. I’m so glad to hear that your conversation with your dad went well. It sounds like a win-win: time with your mom’s family (including grandma) and time with your dad & stepmom a couple of days later.

      Reply
    15. Overeducated*

      Thanks for the update, I think it sounds like it went really well! I think some of the pushback was from your OP sounding like you wanted to tell your dad you would never want to spend a holiday with his family again, which would be hard to hear, so making it about this year and your grandma just sounds like a much gentler way to handle things. And it’s nice that you will see him again soon, too. Great solution!

      Reply
    16. I'm A Little Teapot*

      For the people who were unkind, they were speaking out of fear. Fear that their son/daughter might choose to having Thanksgiving with someone other than them.

      Reply
      1. Rainy*

        Or resentment, because they’ve been putting up with unpleasant holidays for years because they think there’s not another option, and people choosing to prioritize themselves makes them uncomfortable because it demonstrates that they had options all along, just didn’t choose to exercise them.

        Reply
      2. Sue*

        I’ve been reading a Louise Penny mystery (highly recommend) and there was a whole plot line about how artists mainly remember the criticisms of their work rather than all the praise. I remember the prior post and I think the vast majority of comments were supportive but I guess it’s human nature to dwell on the negative ones because the sting makes a big impact. My mantra is to, “consider the source” and try not to let unjust criticism bother me (especially if it’s from internet strangers).
        Your solution sounds perfect, well done!

        Reply
        1. lasslisa*

          I had the same thought! That some jerks must have showed up after I read the thread. Probably there were a few from the beginning and I just eye-rolled right past them. Glad it turned out so well.

          Reply
    17. RagingADHD*

      I’m glad it worked out.

      I’m also glad that you were able to talk about your needs and intentions with your dad in the way you describe here, rather than the way you described it in your initial post — which gave the impression that you intended to spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas with your mom’s family going forward, leaving your dad alone, because his family was less “fun” than your mom’s.

      I think a lot of people responded to the way that sounded at first blush, rather than delving into the replies where you unpacked the nuances of what was going on with the lockdowns, and your grandma, and how much you see your dad in general.

      I’m particularly glad you have plans with your father that you’re actually looking forward to, rather than focusing on why your siblings “get” to avoid him and why you should “have to” spend time with him. That really didn’t sound like your relationship was in a good place at all.

      This is a much happier story all around.

      Reply
    18. Lady Danbury*

      Thank you for the update. I’m glad it has all worked out so well! Continue to ignore those who are projecting their own issues/family dynamics onto you, when clearly you knew your family situation best.

      Reply
    19. Batgirl*

      Yes, some of the responses you had to navigate were totally wild! I was particularly struck by the assumption that just because one family was fun (oooh some people did not like the word fun), that this automatically meant your father was the victim of unjustified hatred and neglect …..or something. It was quite fascinating to watch people spin out and make up fan fiction simply over the concept of Changing A Tradition.

      Reply
  6. tangerineRose*

    The picture last week with cute kitties Laurie and Wallace snuggling got me to thinking. If I remember correctly, Laurie and Hank are considered a bonded pair, but they both seem to be comfy snuggling with other kitties. Is this typical of bonded pair kitties? If someone has a kitty and adopts a bonded pair of kitties, I would have been worried that the first kitty might get left out.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think Laurie and Hank were ever that bonded! Before they came to us, they had been in the same house together (along with 30+ other cats), but they’ve never seemed that close. They like each other, but they’re closer with others. Laurie is very bonded with Wallace now (and somewhat with Eve), and Hank is really bonded with Sophie.

      To your broader question about mixing a bonded pair with a solo kitty, I think it depends on the specific cats. Some cats like other cats and some are much more wary. But I have a theory that cats who are bonded are more willing to snuggle with other cats too (having learned the great joy of doing it) although I could be wrong about that.

      Reply
    2. Squidhead*

      We had a bonded pair (2-3 years old) and adopted a solo cat (8 months to a year?? old) a year later. They all interchangeably snuggle, especially now that the weather is colder. They also all interchangeably wrestle/chase each other around the house periodically. We actually got the solo cat to be a more-energetic companion for one of the pair, as one seemed to want to play and the other did not. It…kinda…worked that way but snuggling seems to be more likely than playing for any of ours.

      Reply
    1. bratschegirl*

      Pumpkin Gelatin Chiffon Pie from Joy of Cooking! People who hate regular pumpkin pie love this one. It’s basically a pumpkin mousse in a graham cracker crust and it’s the best thing ever.

      Reply
      1. WeekendPosting*

        I don’t really like pumpkin pie so I make the pumpkin cheesecake (Saveur’s recipe with a gingersnap crust works well).

        Reply
    2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Apple (just use a heavy hand on the spices)
      Caramel apple blondie (though it isn’t quite like a pie)
      pumpkin (go with a simple recipe, I keep trying fancy maple bourbon brulee things, and they all just taste like pumpkin pie)
      old fashioned pecan (I much prefer it to the corn syrup based ones)
      derby (gooey chocolate & nuts)
      french silk (most chocolatey dessert ever)
      matcha (looks like shrek, tastes delicious)
      berry (whatever mix you like, they all cook up the same pretty much. Frozen berries are totally ok)

      If you want actual recipes for any of them, just let me know.

      Reply
      1. Meh*

        Your recipe for old fashioned pecan! I’m always on the lookout for one. But your while list sounds delicious. I’m making a key lime this week, mini cherry, and maybe pumpkin pie truffles.

        Reply
      2. CJM*

        Would you please share your apple-pie recipe? I like ours (simple with little to no added sugar) and recommended it here recently, but the last one was too bland. Which spices do you use, and how much of them do you recommend? Thanks!

        Reply
        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          So apple pie is my most “grandma” style recipe- I don’t really measure. But I will explain my process.

          -start with at least two types of apples, one tart and firm and one sweet and mushy.
          -fill up the pie plate with whole apples, so you know how much you’ll need. Be generous and remember they lose volume when chopped; a pie with scant amounts of apples is a sad thing.
          -peel, core & slice into big bowl
          -add sugar and spice. start with maybe 3/4-1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp each nutmeg and ginger, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cloves. I just dump some in my hand to measure. Give it a good stir.
          -TASTE it. Apples always vary anyway, so the best way to season appropriately is to use your tongue.
          -add 1/4 c flour for thickening when you’ve got the spices right.
          -put in double crust. start at 425 for 15 minutes, then drop to 350 for 30-45 minutes or until it’s bubbly and the apples are tender

          Reply
          1. CJM*

            Thank you very much! Your process is very similar to ours, but I hadn’t thought to add ginger, which I love, or cloves. (I also need to replace my ancient containers of those.) And only recently did I consider using flour. I recently read the comments on the simple recipe we use (Apple Pie I at All Recipes dot com) and saw tips to add flour there.

            Reply
            1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

              I’ve done an apple pie with nothing but ginger before. Yummy, but I prefer to stick with the classics for Thanksgiving.

              Reply
            2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

              Chinese 5-Spice is really great instead of the standard mix. Or for a.more European flair, use the regular ones minus clove, and add ground caraway.

              Reply
        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          It’s a custard pie, made kind of like a pumpkin pie without the pumpkin. It’s rich and mellow and kind of sophisticated. First time I made it, everyone was like “WHAT is that swamp green thing?” but then everybody loved eating it.

          link in the reply.

          Reply
    3. PollyQ*

      The pumpkin pie recipe on the back of the Libby’s can always worked for my family. Friends sometimes bring an apple pie that’s made with two kinds of apples — one for texture and one for flavor — but I can’t remember either of the varieties, so I suppose that’s not much help.

      Reply
      1. Theatre girl in an office world*

        I always say apple pie is best with most of the pie being granny smith (tart and firm they hold up well) and then mix in a couple of a sweeter variety like Jonagold . Avoid either of the “delicious” varieties.

        Reply
    4. Lore*

      I love a single crust streusel pie—apple, dried cherry, bourbon or pear, candied ginger, and pear brandy are my go-tos.

      Reply
    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I use the (original) pumpkin pie recipe off the side of the Libby’s can – in fact, I actually have a tea towel printed with it that hangs on my oven handle year round, haha — except that I add up the total measurement for all the spices and do half cinnamon, half Penzey’s Pie Spice instead of the assortment they give.

      Also, key lime pie is one of my favorites and I never order it out because it’s so dang easy to make at home, and restaurants charge more for a slice than it costs me to make a whole pie. :P Chuck into a blender: One well-softened brick of cream cheese, one can of sweetened condensed milk, three egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of key lime juice (do NOT confuse this with regular lime juice). Blend until smooth, pour into a graham cracker pie crust, bake at 350 for ten minutes and refrigerate overnight. (Raspberry drizzle optional, but so so good.) Also works with lemon juice instead of the key lime for a tangy sorta-cheesecake, which is amazing with blueberries or strawberries on top.

      Reply
      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yep, the Libby’s recipe is great, though I will admit to upping the spices.

        But my favorite pumpkin pie recipe is one I’ve never actually made. It’s from the American Frugal Housewife, first published in 1828. It says to use 3 eggs to a quart of milk, but you can get away with just one, or use as many as 8 if you want a fancier pie. Kind of blew my mind that baking can be changed up like that.

        And yes, pumpkin pie really is that flexible. Use evaporated milk, or regular milk, or cream. Pumpkin or winter squash. White sugar or brown sugar, a lot or a little. Stick with the standard spices or swap for something else. All good.

        Reply
      2. banoffee pie*

        sounds great! I never put cream cheese in mine, maybe I’ll try it. I can’t get key limes here so have to use ordinary limes (sob). Also have to use digestive biscuits or ginger nuts instead of graham crackers. Maybe one day I’ll find a key lime ;)

        Reply
      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Anyone have thoughts on whether coconut cream could replace the condensed milk? Have a dairy allergy to work around.

        Reply
        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I have never tried it, but I have researched dairy-free alternatives to the sweetened condensed milk and there are directions available online on how to make a substitute using coconut cream or other options! (I won’t link any just because I can’t speak to their quality or effectiveness, but they’re out there :) )

          Reply
        2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          I’ve never tried it, but I see no reason why it shouldn’t work. If it’s too thick, add a splash of plant milk to soften it. If you don’t want it to taste of coconuts, I’d just use straight plant milk. Pumpkin pie is REALLY forgiving.

          Reply
        3. Biology dropout*

          I also have a dairy allergy and find the coconut cream to be kind of gross in a pumpkin pie. I use Elmhurst’s Milked Almonds (it’s nice and thick!!) and it works great.

          Reply
        4. Catherine*

          My mom used coconut milk as a substitute in pumpkin pie when my son was allergic to dairy (since outgrown). I thought it was delicious, but I’m not sure exactly how she did it. It was over a decade ago so I am sure she wouldn’t remember anymore.

          Reply
        5. Captain Naismith*

          I don’t remember whether I used coconut or coconut cream, but I used one in pumpkin pie, and it was great!

          Reply
        6. Brrrrr*

          I’ve bought sweetened condensed coconut milk in the past. The brand I see most commonly is Let’s Do… Organic. Organic/health-food type stores sell it.

          Reply
    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Make your favorite apple pie, and add mace.
      It’s a trick I got from a colonial cooking workshop at a local history museum as a child. (If you’re ever on Long Island New York and want a short dose of local history, look up the Sands-Willets House.)

      Reply
    7. Chauncy Gardener*

      Apple blueberry pie! Half of each. Add a touch of sugar, some cleargel to thicken and vanilla. Then brush top crust with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar

      Reply
    8. Elizabeth*

      Fruits of the Forest

      In a saucepan, put a mix of 2 cups of fresh or frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries & blackberries are my preferred) in with quarter cup of water and a half cup of sugar. Stew it all together on medium-low heat until there is a thick syrup and the berries are just starting to break down. Empty it into a mixing bowl.

      While that is cooking, peel, core & dice 3 cooking apples. Put them in the saucepan with 2 tablespoons of butter, some Chinese 5-spice powder to taste, a quarter cup of water & a half cup of sugar. Cook it until the apples are tender. Empty it into the mixing bowl with the berries.

      Pre-bake a pie shell until just starting to brown according to package directions.

      While the pie shell is baking, gently stir the fruits together. Add a bit of lemon or orange juice if the mixture seems dry. Add it into the pie shell.

      Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, until the fruit syrup is bubbling and the edges of the pie crust is golden brown.

      Reply
    9. Wandering*

      Old Good Housekeeping recipe for squash pie. Squash of choice is pumpkin at our house.

      Glad to see another fan of Penzeys spices here. Love their spices, love their support of the lgbtq community, of soup kitchens, etc.

      (If you decide to check them out, know that they often offer a spice or blend or three for a dollar or two with purchase. Great way to try new stuff or to share.)

      Reply
    10. RagingADHD*

      Dolester Miles’ pear and almond tart.

      I ate it once at the restaurant where she was the pastry chef, and searched for years until it was finally published. Heaven on a plate.

      Reply
      1. banoffee pie*

        I love cherry pie, and I always make my own pastry because I think it makes a big difference. Shop stuff can be a bit salty I’ve found.

        Reply
      1. Coenobita*

        Similarly, the key lime pie recipe on the back of the Nellie & Joe’s bottle! Make the crust from ginger snaps instead of graham crackers for that extra zing.

        Reply
    11. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m not sure if it counts as a recipe, but my local farmstand does an outstanding chocolate pie. It really tastes of rich chocolate, rather than brownish whipped cream.

      I am not good at pies and the farmstand is excellent, so I have ceded the field to them.

      Reply
    12. Clisby*

      Apple pie:

      2 crusts: Make your own or use the Pillsbury refrigerated ones.
      Filling: enough apples to fill your pie pan when sliced. I use only tart apples – usually Braeburn.
      Sprinkle the apples with a little flour and sugar (1/4 cup of sugar is plenty) and a sprinkle of cinnamon, mix that up with your hands.
      Put one crust in the bottom of the pie pan, fill with the apple mixture, put the other crust on top. Prick top crust (or do something decorative; my daughter used to carve anime figures in it). Bake at 375 until done.

      Note: Lots of recipes will call for as much as a cup of sugar. Resist them. Cooked apples are sweet by themselves, they don’t need to be overwhelmed with extra sugar.r

      Reply
    13. Lucien Nova*

      I have a cranberry lime pie recipe from a lovely man who works in pharmaceuticals (these things are, I swear, related. He often compares baking to science in w0nderful ways.) I’ll have to dig it up – his blog recently changed over to a new format that means I can’t just go poking through categories for it.

      Reply
    14. beep beep*

      I dislike most chocolate pie recipes- they’re mostly pudding pies, which, meh- but I found a lovely simple recipe for chocolate pie recently that gives you a fudgy, rich bite not unlike brownies (but better IMO). Will post link in another comment.

      Reply
    15. Random Biter*

      Pie is probably my favorite dessert. However, good pie crust, like gravy, has always evaded me. I’m fortunate to live close to one of the best pie bakeries in the world (or thereabouts).

      Reply
  7. Roll up piano keyboard recommendations?*

    Hi
    Does anyone a recommendation for a roll up piano keyboard. I’ve just started learning to play the piano and want to buy one so that I can practice at work during my lunch break. I’ll be using headphones so don’t think it will be disruptive. It will be used for the basics – getting used to the keyboard layout, practising chords etc. I’ve looked on Amazon and found a few that look possible – Lujex, Kickertech, Blackstar. Just wondering if anyone has any experience with them as they don’t appear to be something I can go and try in a store.
    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Mostlyalurker*

      Hi! Professional piano teacher here- this is probably not the advice you want, but I would not recommend using a roll up keyboard for practice. So much of the beginning stages of learning to play piano is training your body with the physical gestures needed for playing. But, the touch and feel is going to be so different from an actual keyboard that you’d end up having to retrain your fingers and arms all over again every time you switch back to a standard keyboard or piano. It would be sort of like trying to learn to drive by tracing routes on a paper map- you’ll know where to go, but you’re not actually learning how the gestures needed to drive the car, if that makes sense?
      I do think you can make a surprising amount of progress from 15-30 min of consistent practice; do you have a way to carve out that much time in the morning or evening at home and set yourself up with a full keyboard there?

      Reply
      1. Roll up piano keyboard recommendations*

        Hi – thank you. I appreciate the response/info. I have a 61 key Yamaha keyboard at home. I went down the Google rabbit hole looking at splicing 88 key keyboards inc one sold in Canada. But after reading your advice I’ll stick to practising at home on my Yamaha and use my lunch hour to learn how to read music.

        Reply
  8. Foreign Octopus*

    As Thanksgiving is approaching for those of you who celebrate it, perhaps now is the time to ask a question that has confused this British person for years:

    Pumpkin pie…why?

    Is it a cultural thing? Are Americans legally obligated to have it this time of year? Does it actually taste good?

    Reply
    1. PollyQ*

      Pumpkins & other gourds get ripe this time of year, so it’s seasonal. I like it quite well, especially with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, although you can certainly find people on the other side of the line. You didn’t ask what it tastes like, but I’ll take a shot at describing it. It’s a custard pie, made with dairy & eggs, and the pumpkin is pureed quite finely, so the finished pie has a smooth texture (bottom crust only). It’s generally seasoned with the notorious “pumpkin pie spice”, which is cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger, so it’s not just smooth & sweet. IDK, I like it, and I get sad if I don’t have enough on T-Day.

      Reply
      1. Ina Lummick*

        (another Brit here) I did get a bit wary the first time I had sweet potato pie (at a closing party for Oklahoma, the pie’s referenced in the show) but it’s so sweet and lovely!! If only I could make a smaller one with a gluten free crust or something like that (I can’t get pre made ones)

        Reply
          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            The puree freezes well to be used later.
            (I grew up in a pumpkin bread family — pie meant apple. I didn’t like pympkin pie until I had my motherinlaw’s. IMHO most commercial pumpkin pie is gloppy and way too heavy on the clove.)

            Reply
    2. Jules the First*

      Pumpkin pie is actually just custard pie with pumpkin used to make it orange and sturdier and cut back on the number of eggs used. You add spices – nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice – and top with honey and softly whipped cream. It is something of an acquired taste, but definitely worth acquiring…

      Reply
    3. Lily Rose*

      Why pumpkin pie? Because we’ve always had it. Like other weird local things (mayonnaise on French fries?!), you learn to eat this or that as a child, and then as an adult you expect it. Personally I love pumpkin pie, and make quite a nice one if I do say so myself. Custard pie flavored with a sweeter vegetable / root / gourd is not that uncommon.

      Reply
    4. AcademiaNut*

      A well made pumpkin pie is delicious. As others have said, it’s basically a custard with pumpkin puree and warm spices, baked in a pie crust. The pumpkin is cooked to a texture like applesauce first, so you don’t get chunks of pumpkin in it. The texture is dense and rich without being overly sweet, and pairs well with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream. In general, you use smaller pumpkins than the large ones used for jack-o-lanterns.

      I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything labelled “pumpkin spice flavour” so I can’t really comment on how the flavour compares with the pie.

      Reply
      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Spoiler: 99% of “Pumpkin Spice” flavored things taste NOTHING like pumpkin pie, just the spices themselves with no pumpkin.

        Reply
    5. Princess Deviant*

      I’m British but I’ve made it and it’s good. If you like carrot cake, it’s not that weirder. It’s naturally sweet and has a good texture when cooked.

      Reply
      1. Rainy Day*

        This- also British and have made pumpkin pie, and it’s lovely. You can get cans of pumpkin so you don’t have to faff about scooping out innards yourself, and it’s not too hard to make! Why not give it a try? I think it’s delicious.

        Reply
        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          To make it fun, pumpkin pie is often made with other kinds of squash. I’ll go so far as to say usually, because the canned pumpkin puree mixes in other winter squash varieties. I’ll post a link to a good explanation in a reply.

          Reply
            1. Bluesboy*

              I do the same, just roast the butternut squash for 40 minutes and then puree it. I did it for the first time last year (I’m not American but I wanted to start introducing my son to other cultures and traditions so we did Thanksgiving last year), it’s really easy and I’ve done it at least 3-4 times since then because it went down a treat in the family!

              Reply
    6. Pennyworth*

      As to the why of pumpkin pie, pumpkin was a local food introduced to the Plymouth settlers and was part of the first Thanksgiving celebrations. The tradition goes all the way back to then.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West*

        Oh, there are multiple myths about this day. Thanksgiving wasn’t actually a holiday until 1941. We’re celebrating a whitewashed colonialism myth, really. Most people don’t think about or realize the true history surrounding it. There’s a good 2019 interview with a historian in the Smithsonian about it; I’ll link below.

        It’s devolved into a holiday for people to be grateful for whatever, enjoy a four-day weekend with family they don’t usually see and may not even like, and knock each other down for a discounted TV.

        Reply
        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          I usually firmly turn my back on the pilgrims and think of Thanksgiving as a harvest feast, and a time to be grateful to the earth and the people in the food supply chain, particularly farmers. But I’ve discovered a few early New Englanders in my family tree, and since they were scofflaws, including witchcraft accusations against them, I’ll give them a passing thought this year.

          Reply
    7. Teatime is Goodtime*

      I am from the US and I’ve always hated pumpkin pie. That and other dishes made me think I didn’t like pumpkin or squash for many years, but moving abroad has shown me that I just don’t like them with sugar or other added sweeteners.

      That said, I do not begrudge anyone their pie or sugary squash recipes, I just don’t eat them. It is a traditional food and flavor that many people love love love, and I am happy to be happy for them. :)

      Reply
      1. Clisby*

        I once had a spicy pumpkin soup, which was kind of eye-opening. I also realized pumpkin wasn’t the problem; putting it in a pie with disgustingly sweet stuff was the problem.

        Reply
    8. Morning reader*

      I’m American and I understand pumpkin pie although it’s not my fav. I am amused at the question from a British person though as there are so many notoriously British foods that would be more worthy of the “why” question. Even in the answer to this one… what is custard pie for that matter what is custard? I’m picturing some gooey pumpkin pie filling without the pumpkin flavor.
      A larger question for American culture is why pumpkin flavored everything this time of year? I am waiting for Bells to start making their winter brown ale and all I can find in seasonal brews are pumpkin flavored beers. Of which maybe one is ok as a nod to the season but I couldn’t drink 6 of the things. Why oh why brewers?

      Reply
      1. londonedit*

        The even weirder thing is that over the last few years all the pumpkin-spice flavoured things have made it over to Britain even though we don’t even do Thanksgiving, let alone pumpkin pie.

        Do you really not know what custard is? At its simplest it’s a sauce made from egg yolks, sugar and milk/cream. It can also be flavoured with vanilla. It’s a pouring sauce that we eat with things like apple crumble. The French call it crème anglaise (English cream!) Custard pie/tarts would be made with a thicker custard, more like a crème patissière, usually flavoured with nutmeg. You can buy little custard tarts with shortcrust pastry and nutmeg on top in all the bakeries and supermarkets here, they’re the sort of thing you’d have with a cup of tea in the afternoon.

        Reply
        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          (Read this with a healthy helping of “this is my personal experience, not all USians, etc etc) US pudding is (at least an approximation of) British custard, I think, but we usually get it in eat-with-a-spoon consistency rather than the wide range of options y’all get for custard, and it’s often considered a kid’s snack food, like you get it in single-serving cups to put in a sack lunch. I, at least, usually see the word “custard” to refer to a pastry filling for bakery goods, like filled donuts. (I do not like custard in donuts myself, haha.) We also wouldn’t refer to everything custard-y as custard? Like, I have been making pumpkin pies for 30 years, and until literally this morning it had never occurred to me that pumpkin pie was a variety of custard, it’s just … pumpkin pie. :)

          Reply
          1. londonedit*

            See ‘pudding’ is something akin to what we in Britain would call blancmange or Angel Delight (brand name), so it’s custard-ish but not custard. There are people who would just sit and eat a pot of custard on its own but that’s not usual! Flavoured custard can exist but again it’s much more usually just the plain/vanilla version. It’s usually poured over something like a steamed sponge or a crumble or a fruit pie. And yes a thicker custard can definitely be used to fill doughnuts.

            Reply
            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Thinking about it more, outside of an actual bakery, the place I’m most likely to see custard in the wild (so to speak) is actually as a frozen dessert, like ice cream but richer because of the eggs and such. It’s very popular (at least in the USian Midwest) as an option at burgers-and-shakes type quick service restaurants, they load it up with mix-ins and flavors and such.

              Reply
              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                Midwesterner here. I consider custard & pudding two distinct things. To me, custard always has eggs & is often thicker, because it’s baked when not frozen (delicious, btw) or used as a filling.

                I don’t think of pumpkin pie as a custard pie, because I don’t use eggs in my recipe! To me, it’s more similar to the buttermilk, sour cream, chess, & other kinds of non-fruit or berry pies traditionaly made in farm communities during the seasons when fruit isn’t available.

                And I love it! But I love pumpkin & other squash. It’s extremely versatile & adds moisture & sweetness to desserts but also can be used in savory cooking.

                Reply
                1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                  They are different, yes, but (in my experience) a lot of people don’t actually know that, haha.

                2. londonedit*

                  I think ice cream recipes in Britain are usually egg/custard-based – in fact a lot of the TV cooks have done ‘easy’ ice cream recipes over the years where you just buy a tub of the posher supermarket custard (which is usually made with cream and vanilla) and use that as the ice cream base before you add your flavourings.

                3. Roy G. Biv*

                  Fellow Midwesterner here – custard and pudding are two distinct things, to my experience, as well.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Flan is close to the simple custard my English-American grandmother served me as a treat. Hers did not have the sugary crust, but instead a heavy sprinkling of nutmeg.

            Reply
        2. London Calling*

          And very nice a custard tart and a cup of tea is too! I’m on the annual ‘eat my own weight in mince pies’ gig ATM, but thanks for reminding me about custard tarts.

          Reply
        3. marvin the paranoid android*

          Pumpkin spice doesn’t have anything to do with pumpkins, really, it’s just a marketing-y term for cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Maybe the British version should be rebranded as fruitcake spice.

          Canadians always end up somewhere in the middle of these cultural divides. We have Thanksgiving but it’s earlier and more low-key than the American version. We also have pumpkin pie but I don’t think we have the same level of devotion to it. I prefer apple (with custard).

          Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I have seen a lot more custard on the GBBO than I have encountered in American bakeries. I could find custard tarts, but I’d expect to actively hunt and be more likely to succeed in, say, one of the Portuguese bakeries.

        Reply
    9. Kate Daniels*

      I was a picky eater as a kid, but I always loved pumpkin pie! So, for me, it has always tasted good and was not something I need to acquire a taste for.

      Reply
    10. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I don’t get the pumpkin pie thing either. It probably evolved at a time where you used what was available and pumpkins were available. I have eaten it when there is no other pie available, but it’s hard for me to get past the appearance. It looks like mud to me. But I have never been big on pies of any type, so there’s that.

      I do eat butternut squash. But to me the flavor is very different from pumpkin.

      Reply
      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And yet commercial pumpkin puree is often more butternut than pumpkin.
        Where are you from to think of mud as orangey? I’m used to dirt more the color of black pepper.

        Reply
          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yep. Up in the mountains in my state, I have seen the soils get red- brighter than brick color. Here where I live stuff can be grey, mustard (Gulden’s Brown), or that crappy orange color. I have also seen rich soils get dark- almost black.

            Reply
      2. marvin the paranoid android*

        As a fun plot twist, I believe the style of pumpkin pie we make today actually originated in France.

        Reply
      3. Kimmy Schmidt*

        I’d recommend a book called Pumpkin: the Curious History of an American Icon by Cindy Ott. She traces the cultural, culinary, and social history of pumpkin from Indigenous people through the first European settlers to the modern day. It’s a fascinating book. And you’re basically spot on, it was cheap and easy to cultivate, and you could store pumpkins for a long time through a hard winter. They didn’t really evolve into a “holiday” food until the 19th century and the rise of urbanization and advertising.

        Reply
    11. Clisby*

      It doesn’t taste good to me (US South), but obviously a lot of people like it. Same with sweet potato pie – no thanks. The only 2 ways I’ve liked sweet potatoes are: (a) made into oven fries with lots of black pepper; and (b) baked and buttered like regular potatoes. They’re sweet enough on their own.

      Reply
      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I like sweet potatoes in chili or curry. The flavor goes well with the spices. But I am a fan of sweet potatoes.

        Reply
      2. CTT*

        Yeah, I’m from the southeast and we are strictly a pecan pie family, but I recognize I’m in the minority of not being into pumpkin pie.

        Reply
        1. RussianInTexas*

          I’ve been in Texas and I really dislike the pecan pie, which is apparently a crime against Texas, lol.
          I like pumpkin and sweet potato pies, but don’t like sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. Way too sweet! I like sweet potatoes with savory and spicy flavors, except for the pie or empanadas.
          I do not, however, like fruit pies much. Something about wet fruit.

          Reply
    12. Dino*

      I like pumpkin pie but I usually make a pumpkin cheesecake for this time of year. The pie is good, don’t get me wrong, but the texture and balance of pumpkin cheesecake will always win out for me.

      Reply
    13. Nicki Name*

      The historical reason why is that most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods are native to North America.

      Is it a cultural thing? Yes. Possibly also a regional thing as different foods are popular for Thanksgiving in different parts of the US.

      Does it actually taste good? Yes! Come on over and have a slice!

      Reply
    14. Chaordic One*

      This is one of those things that make me think WTF? I can’t explain it. Pumpkins? Meh! By themselves they’re just kind of bland and you really need to add a lot of sugar and some other spices to make them taste decent, not to mention the whipped cream. Pumpkin spice anything? Meh!

      The same with turkey, although I guess that what with turkeys being comparatively large if you cook one it will serve a whole bunch of people. Personally, I’d prefer a nice pot roast. Or just roasted chicken.

      Reply
    15. RagingADHD*

      I don’t love pumpkin pie because of the texture. Custard pies in general aren’t my favorite.

      That said, the flavor of pumpkin pie can be quite nice if well-made, with a complex spicy and slightly fruity-nutty taste. Most commercially made ones aren’t worth chewing, to me, because they tend to be quite bland and sickly sweet.

      A regional twist is sweet-potato pie which is made very similarly in terms of custard technique and spice profile. The key to a really tasty sweet potato pie is to roast the potatoes before pureeing them. A lot of recipes say to boil them, but you kill the flavor that way.

      Reply
    16. Salymander*

      Pumpkin pie is delicious if done properly! The blend of spices with the pumpkin is yummy.

      Pumpkin gets ripe at end of summer/early autumn, it keeps well, and it is very nutritious. So, it works as an autumn/winter vegetable or pie filling. It also makes a lovely addition to bread, like carrot cake or zucchini bread. Actually, I like it a lot more than carrot cake. Plus, pumpkins, squashes and gourds can be really pretty and make nice seasonal decorations.

      Reply
    17. HBJ*

      I can’t stand pumpkin pie (or any pie with a pastry crust, really, but I tolerate other flavors sometimes), but yes, many many people do genuinely like it.

      Reply
    18. allathian*

      I’ve never tried the American version of pumpkin pie, but I have made something similar to carrot cake, where you put the pumpkin in the cake dough. It’s great with a cream cheese/powdered sugar topping.

      Reply
      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        A neighbor when I was a kid always made a pumpkin roll. It’s basically a pumpkin cake rolled up with a sweetened cream cheese filling. And it is delicious!

        Reply
    19. Lady Danbury*

      Not American from a British territory that also has American influences. I grew up eating pumpkin pie in the fall, not specifically on Thanksgiving (which isn’t a holiday here). It’s still one of my favorite pies (preferably warm with vanilla ice cream). There’s a reason why pumpkin spice lattes have become such a stereotype. It’s a quintessential fall flavor for many people.

      Reply
    20. PT*

      A lot of the canned pumpkin that we buy isn’t technically pumpkin. If you were to make a pumpkin pie from scratch- using a whole pumpkin you purchased in the produce section- you’d use a sugar pumpkin, and you’d use the rind of the pumpkin, not the stringy guts. But the vast majority of people make their pumpkin pies (and breads, and muffins, and cookies) from canned pumpkin puree, and a lot of those companies use assorted winter squashes, like butternut squash, in making that puree.

      So most of the pumpkin pies we make are actually squash pies!

      Reply
  9. Kuododi*

    My DH would happily eat pumpkin pie until the point of catatonia. I like the stuff but for me it’s a “take it or leave it” situation.

    Now if I find out Daddy is making key lime pie someone better hold me back if they want to have portions for the other guests. (Daddy’s key lime pie is my very own Kryptonite!!!).

    Blessings
    Kuododi

    Reply
    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      “My DH would happily eat pumpkin pie until the point of catatonia.”
      Same here. But I might settle for a T-shirt with your sentence.

      Reply
      1. Kuododi*

        Feel free to borrow the sentence ☺️. I’m reasonably certain it’s a Kuododi original. In any case…it’s certainly not copywrited. Enjoy!

        Kuododi

        Reply
  10. Princess Deviant*

    Has anyone seen The Outlaws, Ghosts, or The Cleaner on BBC? I just want to talk about how brilliant they are!
    Any other good series please add here too.
    I just finished The Morning Show, it was good but its becoming quite ‘soapy’ I think?
    And I loved the 3rd season of What We Do In The Shadows.

    Reply
    1. You're Claire*

      Ghosts is one of my fav shows by the BBC. I’d never watched horrible histories so hadn’t heard of this group at all before this, but fell in love straight away. I love the way they’re gradually revealing bits and pieces of the characters’ pasts (I sort of expected to be a limited series where each episode dealt with how one character died, and was pleasantly surprised by how much story there is to tell). All the characters are obviously flawed yet you can’t help but love them. The living characters are also incredibly charming.

      The Outlaws was also terrific, and I really hope there will be a second (or more) series, though I’m less invested in the characters compared to Ghosts.

      I watched The Cleaner since it sounded like a great lineup (I didn’t know it was a remake of a German series), but then was disappointed it was more of an episodic show with a ‘guest star of the week’ type theme. It was entertaining enough but not something I’d want to watch again.

      If you haven’t seen ‘Feel Good’ (Netflix), that’s a pretty good show, also with Charlotte Ritchie (Alison). I’m also a fan of work from the Mischief Theatre team, and the second season of ‘The Goes Wrong Show’ is currently available on BBC.

      Reply
      1. Yay, I’m a Llama Again!*

        Ghosts is brilliant, it’s so clever! And agree with Mischief theatre company – their stage shows are even better that the TV stuff.

        Reply
      2. Princess Deviant*

        Yeah, the characterisation of The Outlaws is ^chef’s kiss^. I really care about what happened to all of them, despite their flaws.
        My favourite bit of Ghosts was when Julian tried to communicate in Morse code with the husband (can’t remember his name) by using the doll’s eyes. It was just so, so funny but also so creepy.

        Reply
      3. German Girl*

        The German version of the cleaner is quite good. I didn’t watch the whole thing but enjoyed every episode I watched.

        Reply
    2. Dwight Schrute*

      I’ll have to check Ghosts out! I love WWDITS! If you haven’t watched Ted Lasso yet go for it!! It’s a delightful show

      Reply
    3. fposte*

      I’ve seen Ghosts (well, most of it) and The Cleaner. Ghosts I enjoy because of the performances but the plots run a little broad for me. The Cleaner was just weird and wild and enjoyable.

      Reply
      1. Princess Deviant*

        Yes, there were some absolute corkers of 1 liners in it! I’ve got “I’ve seen crows as big as Labradors” as my WhatsApp status.
        I also liked “Dylan is very pecky”.

        Reply
    4. Buni*

      I love Ghosts so much, but then I also loved Horrible Histories, Yonderland, and Bill – I will follow this troupe wherever they go.

      Reply
    5. I take tea*

      I am so annoyed that it isn’t possible to stream BBC shows where I live. There’s a lot I’d like to see, and I would love to pay for it, really. I was thinking of VPN, but a friend told me that BBC blocks them. I actually bought the first season of Ghosts on DVD, because the snippets I had seen on YouTube were intriguing. I enjoyed it, so I will have to buy the rest, but I’d rather buy it electronically instead. Why is this not a thing? BBC could probably make a lot of money that way.

      Reply
        1. I take tea*

          But no Ghosts, no Staged, no Doctor Who or Torchwood even (Doctor Who was on when we got Netflix, but has since been pulled). Very annoying.

          Reply
      1. tiredlibrarian*

        BBC Ghosts is on HBOMax. Still not free, but at least available. But 100% agree — BBC, we want to watch your shows stop making it so hard!

        Reply
      2. Don’t blink*

        BBC iplayer works with VPN. Sometimes it’s picky, but works well for me using a static IP in the UK. Less consistent with multi hop.

        Reply
      3. Princess Deviant*

        Oh that’s a shame! I had no idea. I actually thought that all the BBC shows were available on BBC America!

        Reply
      4. I take tea*

        Just adding: not on HBOMax or Hulu in my country. According to JustWatch not available at all. Just as a lot of the Netflix series I read about. In this time of the Internet and free information and so on, it’s so very annoying to still be confided to my country’s borders.

        Reply
  11. Tea and me*

    I don’t want to be rude, but that cat looks exactly like my guidance counselor at high school. I was always in and out of that office.

    Reply
    1. KoiFeeder*

      Honestly, the expression is not dissimilar, but for Sophie to be my highschool guidance counselor she needs less compassion and more visible distaste in her eyes.

      Reply
  12. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Thank you to all for responding to my late Sunday question about Canada-centric food gifts!

    Maple cookies are definitely on the list! Suggestions on where to buy them? Any specific brands? I’d strongly prefer if they can be purchased from a chain store. I have access to Walmart, highland farms, No frills, loblaws (Bob Loblaw).

    Also….Tim hortons!!!! COFFEE! I love it. Way more than DD & Starbucks! My favorite drink is iced double cappuccino lol. Any other drinks or chains I should try while here?

    I’m bringing back a small container of their coffee as a gift. The recipient has both a keurig and regular coffee machine at home. What’s better – buy a tin directly from one of their locations or something from their grocery store? i don’t make coffee at home so I don’t know if there’s much difference in taste between take-home coffee or grocery store coffee of the same brand (aka Dunkin or Starbucks).

    Reply
            1. RagingADHD*

              Okay, I was just trying to contextualize the comment because OP seemed offended and I don’t think that was the intent. But hey, if you really want to be offended, go for it.

              Reply
    1. Felicia*

      You can find those cookies in the cookie aisle of any of those stores you mentioned. Dare is I think the most common/well known brand but I think they all look and taste basically the same

      Reply
      1. Worked in IT forever*

        And look for a brand that specifies that they’re made with real maple syrup. At least one of them is. (It’s sad that I’ve eaten enough of these cookies to know that.)

        Some Shoppers Drug Mart stores have a good selection of cookies, too.

        Reply
      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Thanks for mentioning Dare. I’ve seen all the cookies, Just wondering if there’s a brands thats better than others.

        I worked with a guy who would get a friend to send him a shipment of Canadian maple cookies once a year. On a past trip i picked up a box for him (we were good friends at work) and he said there was a huge taste difference between what he got (I think from some small shop in BC?) and what I got (Walmart brand lol).

        Reply
    2. J.B.*

      Fresh Market often has maple cookies in fall, if there is one near you.

      For coffee I think the grocery store version is fine.

      Reply
    3. Aealias*

      I just want to flag for you one more distinctly-Canadian food I was surprised about: Vivapuff cookies! Their. Graham-cookie base with a spot of jam on top, a big puff of marshmallow, and a chocolate-flavoured shell. I assumed they were universal or even American in origin, but for the last several years I’ve been sending them to a friend in Ohio for all major occasions, cause she can’t get them there.

      The Tim Hortons vanilla cap instant coffee powder at the grocery store is pretty comparable to the restaurant version. I’m pretty sure that what you find on the souvenir shelf in the Timmy’s is the same thing you find in the grocery stores with Tim’s branding.

      Also, depending on where in Canada you are, there may be regional specialties to consider. Quebec and BC have some pretty distinctive and week-known beers and liqueurs. Likely other places, too! Apparently Newfoundland screech is an important cultural artifact (booze) but I haven’t tried one myself.

      Reply
        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          In Toronto I’d head to the St. Lawrence Market. I bet there’s at least one shop there for visitors to find gifts to take home.

          Reply
    4. marvin the paranoid android*

      I think you can get those maple cookies at pretty much any grocery store. I’ve even found them in tiny convenience stores in the middle of nowhere.

      My plug for Canadian bakery fare is Montreal style bagels. They’re obviously regional (although I have seen them for sale elsewhere in Canada) and you probably won’t be able to bring them back with you, but if you have the opportunity to eat one, take it!

      Reply
    5. Not a cat*

      If your drink of choice is a double-iced cappuccino, you aren’t a coffee fan as much as a milk-sugar-cold-drink fan.

      Reply
      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Like that’s such a weird comment to make on a post asking for advice on coffee gift to a friend.

        Also, never said I was a coffee enthusiast, just that I enjoyed Tim hortons. The gift recipient enjoys coffee….

        Reply
      2. bluephone*

        Oh goody, we’re gate-keeping coffee now. Literally hot bean water. Everyone on this website, myself included, needs to look at their life, look at their choices because: damn.

        Reply
    6. Weekend Warrior*

      After extensive, a-hem, research, my husband and I believe that the best maple cookies are actually the cheaper store brands! Best ratio of crisp cookie to maple icing filling. Here’s our ranking:
      1. Mr. Maple Cookies
      2. Compliments Maple Cream (Creme) Cookies
      3. Celebration Maple Creme Cookies
      4. Dare Ultimate Maple Creme Cookies

      Keen scratch cooks could also try the recipe from the Great Canadian Baking Show. They sound really, really sweet!
      https://www.cbc.ca/life/greatcanadianbakingshow/recipe-maple-leaf-sandwich-cookies-gcbs-1.5051570

      And sometimes they don’t go so well!
      https://www.cbc.ca/life/greatcanadianbakingshow/recipes/i-made-the-maple-leaf-cookies-from-the-great-canadian-baking-show-1.4414866

      Reply
    7. RagingADHD*

      From my experience of Dunkin and Starbucks there is no discernable difference between the branded bags in a grocery store and the branded bags from the restaurant.

      Is the friend getting the cookies Canadian? Because if not they aren’t likely to have a preference or an expectation about what they taste like, so I’m sure any of the grocery store brands would be interchangeable. If they are Canadian and likely to have a preference, you could make the “specialness” of the treat all about asking them their favorite.

      Reply
      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        This is helpful, thanks.

        They’re not from Canada, I don’t think they’ve ever been.

        side note – I’ve also experienced that chocolate here tastes different than chocolate in US, even between the same brands (hersheys, Cadbury, etc).

        Reply
        1. allathian*

          That’s probably because Canada’s stricter than the US about the ingredients required to be able to call something chocolate. Same thing goes for Europe, you can’t call it chocolate if it doesn’t contain a certain percentage of cocoa/cocoa butter, or just the latter for white chocolate.

          Reply
        2. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Absolutely. Grew up in a border town, had plenty of opportunity to try plenty of both, and I greatly prefer the Canadian versions.

          Also, prefer Canadian Smarties. And I do eat the red ones last.

          Reply
    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      If you’re visiting relatives, you can always ask them if they know of a place to get maple cookies. Even if they don’t eat them, I’m sure they’ve seen them somewhere. I always get mine at the airport.

      Reply
  13. Anima*

    Can we talk about the midnight library? I read it on summer holiday and am kind of… Miffed by this book. I didn’t like the main character at all, still don’t know why. The other part I didn’t like was the playing through the possibilitys she had, but then coming to the conclusion the live she has is just the right one. That’s what I took away from that book and… No. I think it’s perfectly fine to not really like your life but thinking that hard about what-ifs is also not totally healthy. The Midnight Library veered too much into toxic positivity for me. Is this understandable? Can anyone relate?

    Reply
      1. Blue Eagle*

        Actually I appreciate your mentioning the ending. The description at the top made it sound like a book I would enjoy but after reading your post, I’ll happily pass.

        Reply
    1. Still*

      I liked the book but I didn’t particularly like the idea that the only way to make peace with your current life is to realise that every other life would suck just as much. I get the point that pain is an inevitable part of life, but surely there are possible scenarios in which our lives would have been much easier and happier, or much sadder and more difficult? I feel like the book didn’t really find a way to make peace with the fact that sometimes we just do things we regret and that there might be a good reason for it. Instead it just kind of said: don’t worry, every other scenario would end up being just as bad in the end.

      Reply
      1. banoffee pie*

        yeah I haven’t read it but assumed that would be the ending, just going by what I’ve read about the author and interviews with him. Seems like a lot of reading to come to the conclusion that the character is better off as she is lol

        Reply
      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm, I didn’t think that was what it was saying — the last life she was in she was really happy with, but she felt like they weren’t her memories (because she hadn’t actually lived it up until that point) and she wanted to go make her own, which is what she did. But it wasn’t “every life will suck.” It was more “these big regrets that you have — you’re making assumptions about how everything would have been better if only you’d done X instead and that’s not necessarily true.”

        Reply
    2. londonedit*

      I’ve just read The Humans by Matt Haig and
      I was disappointed with that because everyone always bangs on about what an incredible writer is and how amazing his books are, but I just didn’t like it. The first half was OK but there were so many plot holes and it felt like you were being hit over the head with all the ‘look at me writing about mental health’ stuff.

      Reply
    3. ivy*

      I liked the book but found the main character somewhat irritating… I think it was she never took responsibility for her own life, happiness. Hence the feelings of regrets
      But I didn’t feel that every other scenario was just as bad FOR HER. Some of them were better for her, on balance, but worse for people she cared about (eg when she was a mega pop star, her brother had died)

      Reply
    4. WeekendPosting*

      I have a sibling with bipolar disorder who has been hospitalized for suicide attempts and this book really really rubbed me the wrong way. I agree with the toxic positivity thing. It’s just not how that works.

      Reply
      1. Tea The Bee*

        Honestly, this. Despite the author being open about his own MH struggles, this book kinda felt like something written by a person who says “Have you tried yoga???” to someone going through a long term crisis.*

        Basically kind and well-intentioned, but a bit dismissive and something that feels like it was trying to speak to All Experiences when that is not super possible.

        It was a cool concept and wish it had been executed a bit better.

        *(No slander on yoga, but needs to be one part of a multi-pronged treatment plan that includes medical support.)

        Reply
    5. AY*

      This was a huge miss for me and my husband but I think a large part of the problem was listening to the book on audio. It’s so, so repetitive. I told my husband at one point that if I had to hear the narrator say “zero hours, zero minutes, zero seconds” one more time, I’d throw myself out of the car no matter how fast it was moving. I’m guessing it was written as 00:00:00 in the book so you could gloss right over it when you’re reading?

      But so we’re not all feasting on negativity, I’ll say that I thought the Invisible Life of Addie LaRue dealt with similar themes in a much more successful way. If you’re interested in a book that explores how to live a meaningful life when there are countless lives available to you, I would check out Addie LaRue over the Midnight Library.

      Reply
    6. Hotdog not dog*

      I liked it less on its own merits( it felt kind of lightweight) but very much enjoyed speculating on what my own life might have brought if I had zigged instead of zagged at various points. As a confirmed bookworm who grew up on “choose your own adventure” stories, this book felt like a slightly adult version of those.

      Reply
    7. Blink*

      I was given it for Christmas, read it to be polite but couldn’t stand it. I thought it was trite and obvious. Then for book club we read The Humans which I absolutely hated. I understand why he’s popular – when I was a teenager I got really into Richard Bach, who has a similar sort of cod-philosophical high-concept approach to fiction. I guess this stuff is cyclical – remember The Alchemist?

      Reply
    8. Fellow Traveller*

      I did not care for Midnight Library… i thought it was a little didactic for my tastes… like a self help book disguised as a novel. I didn’t feel like the idea was the life she had was the “right” one, but rather that it’s no better than any other one. Like she got no joy out of any of the other lives and it was just exhausting for me to watch her cycle through them. Because I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to find another life that she preferred. (I don’t know that that’s really a spoiler… it’s kind of obvious that that is how the book is going to go.)
      I did enjoy Haig’s How To Stop Time, though. I thought that premise more interesting and the main character’s journey much more entertaining (though very euro centric. Like the guy lives for hundreds of years and doesn’t get to Asia?) . Both books kind of speculate on how we choose to spend out lives, but in Midnight Library the premise is about the finite nature of life and How to Stop Time it explores the idea from a premise that life is infinite.
      I feel like time bending books are really popular right now and have to admit a little bit of fatigue.

      Reply
    9. Cruciatus*

      It wasn’t my favorite either. I read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and the Midnight Library back-to-back. They are similar in that they are about two people who have a variety of different lives to try on (though how and why are quite different). Anyway, I much preferred Addie LaRue, but wish it had taken the Midnight Library approach of some lives which were just told in paragraphs or even just a few sentences as my main complaint about Addie LaRue was it just went on a little too long and I just wanted to scream “We get it already!”

      Reply
      1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

        IMO the trick of Addie Larue is that we instinctively focus on the wrong love story. I also think that the very early flashbacks work as parables but as things move forward, the expected trappings and details of historical fiction don’t kick in like we assume they should. I do think the constant flashbacks are necessary to flesh out the romance that ends up being the “real” one but the writing definitely felt empty in places.

        Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Having just finished ILoAL I find these comparisons interesting. Because I think Henry (ILoAL) and Nora (ML) have a lot in common. Henry’s disappointment is turned outward and Nora’s inward, but I think that has a lot to do with the former’s parents still both being alive to be disappointed.

        Reply
    10. Wicked Witch of the West*

      I did not like it either. I slogged through (I rarely just stop a book entirely, I paid good money), but it was slow. Interestingly, my husband liked it. I didn’t like the main character, too whiny. If you don’t like your life, then do something about it. I’ve never been one for self help or inspirational books.

      Reply
    11. Eden*

      Read at the suggestion of a friend who gives me great recs – she loved it, I didn’t, only finished it because I was on a plane so “may as well”. Like, surprise, as soon as you’ve decided “Life Is Good Actually” then all the shit that drove you to suicidal ideation just…. goes away? No need to wallow in regret but this idea that the choices you’ve made were all perfect seemed quite odd to me. I also didn’t the think writing was a that great technically but I feel that way about a lot of books that people really like so that’s more of a personal reason not to read it

      Reply
    12. Falling Diphthong*

      I loved the book.

      One of the benefits of antidepressants is that it reminds you what normal feels like. (Depression often comes on slowly.) The consciousness that gets poured back into her body isn’t the one who left–it knows many other ways it can feel. And knowing something different is possible can be the key to stepping forward.

      I really liked the detail of a version of herself who felt everything super intently. It was a small aside but I spent a lot of time thinking about how outside experiences can form your emotional landscape.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Also, after reading other reactions: I didn’t at all take that the life she has is the best or right one–just that if it came down to that being the only one, would she choose it? Could she get unstuck from where she was? And that she needed more information about what was possible in life to be able to make something different of it. The bit about getting stuck in grief in Australia resonated with me–and I’ll note that the book was clear she had situational depression, not “there’s no outside reason but my brain chemicals are flattening me for sport” depression. So changing the situation should give her different emotional reactions–but it was the case that in a lot of lives, the choices led to feeling sad and trapped.

        I liked the observation in the life where she stayed the longest that she felt sadness brush her, but it didn’t overwhelm her the way it had in her old life, and in a number of her alternate ones.

        I also liked that she didn’t run to find Ash as soon as she came back–that that was a possibility, not an inevitability.

        Reply
    13. Treefrog*

      I expected to love the book, I have friends with similar taste in books to me who loved it, but I was really disappointed with it, it just felt facile and trite. The first part, with the death of a pet and the way she felt trapped in her life really hit home to me and was similar to how I’d felt not too long before I’d started to read it. And I liked the first maybe third of the book? But then it felt like I was being hammered over the head with the toxic positivity message, and also the other lives she tried were just so extreme – she was always the best in the world, and there was always someone important to her missing from that life. I felt it lacked depth.

      I read a lot of depression memoirs when I was suffering from depression, and I found the reflection of the way I was thinking and feeling in them (and knowing that I wasn’t alone or the only person to feel like that), coupled with the path to how they recovered and chose life (and that it was slow and grinding and hard but worth it) very healing and hopeful. I think I’d expected something similar from this book but it was too much like waving a magic wand for me. A good friend who was also suffering from depression and who I normally enjoy the same types of books as absolutely loved it though, it seems like a real marmite book.

      Reply
  14. Eve*

    Childhood fears: when you were young, were you more worried about ‘real world’ stuff like getting lost, losing relatives, not being able to make friends etc., or more ‘imagination’ stuff monsters and ghosts etc.

    How do you think those fears came to be? I’m interested in whether fears are more driven by internal factors (related to inherent personality) or external (i.e. outside influences). Most likely an interaction of both (so personality determines how you interpret outside influences) but would like to hear opinions from layman anecdotes (as opposed to official psychological studies) on how you recall these things.

    Reply
    1. Anonybonnie*

      My home life was kind of rough, but interestingly, my fears around vampires upset me MUCH more than my fears of the actual violence and threats I experienced day-to-day. I would have dreams that I had been bitten, and became obsessed with worry that when I went to sleep each night I turned into a vampire and spent the night biting people.

      Honestly, I think my worst fear was that I would become as angry, cruel, and hopeless as the people who were hurting me, and my vampire fixation was a way for me to express/process that fear.

      Sorry if that’s heavier than you were looking for.

      Reply
    2. Loopy*

      My fears were mostly very real world and social- I was an anxious child. So usual nerves on first day of school/camp/etc, but also things like our car breaking down or being late. I remember being about ten and waiting at an airport gate with my dad, he went to an airport bathroom clearly within sight of the gate. They started boarding and my panic went up immediately- he wasn’t going to make it back in time to board! We’d be stranded. That sort of thing.

      Reply
    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Mostly imagination things, but not even too much of that. Like, I was positive that some day a monster would pop out from under my bed, but I also had a plan for what I would do if the monster popped out on THIS side vs THAT side. I had a pretty secure upbringing without any major losses or traumas as a kid, and I’ve always been literally incapable of visual imagination, so even if I came across scary imagery it just never stuck and I was able to be pretty logical about it as a result. :)

      (Now my middle-of-the-night disturbances are endless rehashing of unpleasant conversations that might have been, thanks brain.)

      Reply
    4. let me be dark and twisty*

      My only real childhood fear that I remember is finding a snake in the toilet. (Okay, it’s also an adult fear too.) I developed this fear because it was a plot point in one of my favorite kiddie chapter books. Don’t remember the name of the book but I think I was in 3rd grade when I first read it. I do remember it had something to do with Valentines Day. The main female character (who was about 9 or 10) went to the bathroom at school and found a snake in the toilet. Traumatized me for the rest of childhood and then learning as a 20-something that snakes in toilets are a very real thing made it a very permanent fear that I deal with by never going camping, always closing toilet lids, and doing a pre-flush on outdoorsy public toilets.

      Reply
      1. Filosofickle*

        Latrine style toilets always give me the fear of some sort of animal coming up from below. Don’t have any idea where that came from, but first remember feeling that way on family road trips.

        In the imaginary realm, the monster under my bed was Darth Vader. My parents took me to Star Wars when I was still in preschool and that trauma haunted me for years! I also had a real-world fear of abandonment and strangers which came (we believe) from being a sick baby who was hospitalized frequently.

        Reply
      2. KoiFeeder*

        I actually did find a snake in the toilet at Pennsic! It was in the area of the port a potty that I think is meant to be used as a urinal? It was an incredibly hot day and I think the snake was just trying to cool down- I wasn’t particularly afraid, but I also wasn’t using the urinal.

        I did, however, guard the port-a-potty while my brother went to find a staff member to give me permission to remove the snake. I put it out in a more secluded and cooler area, and hopefully it didn’t go back to the port a potties afterwards. It was a teenaged black rat snake, so completely nonvenomous and this poor snake was so overheated that it didn’t even have the energy to bite me, but teenagers in any species are not exactly models of being sensible…

        Reply
    5. Cj*

      Imaginary stuff, and it was from movies. Like “don’t be afraid of the dark” and “legacy” that were on late at night and i don’t think my parents had any idea their 10 year old was watching them. Then in high school it was stephen king movies, and recently Supernatural.

      Reply
      1. Cj*

        I should add I don’t have any idea what drove me to want to watch those scary shows when I was so young the first place. Stephen King movies in high school I think we kind of dared each other to do it, so peer pressure of a sort, although they were my good friends and we all did it to each other.
        Supernatural, well, there’s jensen ackles to blame for that!

        Reply
        1. matcha123*

          I loved scary stuff from a young age. I watched Unsolved Mysteries and a bunch of other late-night shows that freaked me out. I watched the original IT in fifth? grade at a friend’s house (two VHS tapes!) and the redrum one that I forgot the name of.
          The movies got me hyped to read King’s books and I did check one out in fifth grade…and realized the content was too “adult” and I have never tried to read him since. I enjoy horror, not weird takes on women’s bodies.

          Reply
    6. walking dictionary*

      My fears – mostly real world stuff. I was a skeptical child and never believed in ghosts and witches and monsters… I was scared of bad grades, embarrassing myself in front of everyone, and this bully of a frenemy who once tried to get me sent to the principal.

      Reply
    7. Dwight Schrute*

      I was definitely afraid of monsters growing up. I also have a phobia of clowns that strayed into fears of other things where I couldn’t see someone’s entire face when I was younger. As a child I was TERRIFIED of people with beards, and have gotten over that one. I used to be much more afraid of mascots but they still make me uncomfortable. Clowns have always been horrible and still are. My entire fight or flight response kicks in when I see one and I basically have zero control over what my body does.

      Reply
      1. RagingADHD*

        My childhood bedroom had a painting of a clown on the wall, and I was terrified of it. I wasn’t/am not scared of clowns in general, but I was scared to death of that picture. I never told anyone until I was grown, and I don’t know why. My mom would have gotten rid of it in a heartbeat if I had.

        Reply
      1. The Other Dawn*

        Same. The TV movie, The Day After, came out when I was nine years old and it scared the hell out of me for years.

        Reply
      2. Cj*

        Oh, man. I remember hiding under our desks for drills, as if that would have done any good. Because I live in the middle of fly over country, I wasnt worried so much about a direct hit as about the aftermath.

        Reply
    8. Not So NewReader*

      Wizard of Oz. Every time I watched that movie, I’d have nightmares. Why did I keep watching it? I have no idea I guess I thought that’s what kids do and I was a kid so…… But in the nightmare the wicked witch morphed into my mother.
      And that had to do with a whole bunch of denial on my part. I truly was not afraid of my mother. But I had zero confidence in her ability to take care of me. She proved over and over that she couldn’t. I thought that because she doesn’t beat me like other kids’ mothers we should be able to have a good relationship. This dream shook me so badly because it was a reality check. There’s more to having a good relationship than not beating your kid. I was into my 30s before the dream finally stopped- that was about 10 years after she died.

      I can trace most of my fears back to lack of knowledge and lack of having someone there to help me get oriented to the problem/situation/new thing/whatever*. The rebuttal I found to this whole story line was to just sit down and teach myself things, something my mother never had any interest in doing. I have learned to accept myself as “being a worrier” and realized I had to beef up what I was doing in order to fill in those knowledge gaps. It’s not a perfect solution, but it IS enough.

      *Typical example. When I was 4 I had a dance recital. I had to go on a stage. I did not know what a stage was. We got there and I saw the huge, heavy curtains. Lacking any adult input I decided that curtains hid things. So those curtains must be hiding monsters. And I would not go on that stage for anything. Gosh, I was a handful. I have more than a few stories like this. When I got to kindergarten, (I did not know what that was) I was very relieved to see there were no big heavy curtains. (ha!)

      Reply
      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Yes, there was one scene in the Wizard of Oz that scared the heck out of me every time I watched it, when the camera zooms in on the wicked witch talking in the crystal ball. The flying monkeys were creepy but nothing got to me like that close-up of the witch’s face and her threatening voice. I used to have to cover my eyes.

        Reply
      2. Paddy O'Furniture*

        The Wizard of Oz is another one of those things that I don’t really like and don’t understand why so many other people love it. The flying monkeys gave me nightmares as a child.

        I heard a story that when the movie first came out, a theater invited an entire school to see the movie. When the wicked witch of the west made her dramatic and frightening appearance a whole bunch of the kids were so scared, they all wet their pants. The theater ended up having to reupholster almost all of their seats.

        Reply
        1. I take tea*

          The Wizard of Oz isn’t so bad, but I watched Return to Oz as an adult and I found it quite spooky. Especially the Wheelers. Is it really supposed to be a kiss movie?

          I read a lot of the Oz books as a kid and liked them.

          Reply
    9. L. Ron Jeremy*

      My father would comment regularly about money and those who didn’t have enough of it when I was a kid. He had plenty and left it all to his favorite nephew; really ruined this young man’s life. My two brothers and I were surprised that he did this and it split apart the whole family.

      But his favorite phrase to say to me was “Don’t outlive your money”, which became very frightening to me as a young child and drove my anxiety about running out before I died. Only now do I realize how much trauma this caused in my life and the great subconscious conflict I had about dying poor and homeless.

      Well, I got to experience being both poor and homeless when my wife’s medical bills drove us to declare bankruptcy and we found ourselves with no where to live. I turned to my rich father for help and got the cold shoulder from him. He did chip in some money to help us move to my poor in-laws home; they converted their garage for us to live in and our young son occupied the second bedroom. They were our life saviors.

      Worked my ass off to become a non-degreed senior engineer here in Silicon valley and achieved a degree of wealth, but this wealth wasn’t something that brought me piece of mind because I still worry about outliving my money. Thanks Dad!

      Reply
    10. Turtle Dove*

      My childhood fears and anxieties were usually about my home life and mostly expressed in dreams. I was the oldest child and had night terrors. (So did my oldest child, and so does her oldest child. Hmmm, interesting.)

      I recall a bad dream from around kindergarten where my parents and siblings took a vacation without me. But their “vacation” consisted of walking around the house. I felt rejected and confused.

      As a teen, I had a nightmare that a book with a million pages fell apart in my parents’ bedroom, and it was my job to put the pages back together in order. That felt like the epitome of stress. (Now I’d reject that job with a few choice words.)

      My childhood was nice on the exterior (high social standards and pretty homes), but in private there was lack and stinginess (attention, guidance, money, and even basics like food and clothes). Dad was an alcoholic and ignored everyone, and Mom was unhappy and critical. I tried to be kind and helpful at home, but I learned to keep to myself. School was my haven. I was a top student and had many rewarding interactions.

      I think I built a rich internal life as a coping mechanism, but maybe I was always meant to be that way. And all my life, my anxieties ooze out at night in vivid dreams or 2am worry sessions. In the light of day, I mostly cope.

      Great subject. Thanks for posting!

      Reply
    11. allathian*

      I had vivid nightmares as a kid. I had a pretty safe and secure childhood growing up, so my fears were mostly caused by imaginary things. My parents weren’t moviegoers and we didn’t have a TV for most of my childhood, so I grew up very sheltered in that sense. Some friends took me to see ET when I was 10, and I had nightmares for weeks. I slept in the top bunk, and ET’s stretchy neck would peek over the edge of the bed and frighten me. I also read a lot, and some of the books I read also affected my dreams. A particularly vivid nightmare involved Nancy Drew.

      The real-life fears I had were about being abandoned. When I was in elementary school, we lived on a research station for a few years. This meant that the lab where my parents worked was only 50 yards away from our house. My dad was at times a poor sleeper, and sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night, and my parents would be at work (my mom was his assistant). Security was nowhere near as tight then as it is today, and I had a key to the main entrance of the lab, so I’d get dressed in the middle of the night, and get my mom, who’d return home and put me back to bed.

      Reply
    12. Invisible Fish*

      You know that Rihanna/Eminem song about being friends with the monsters under your bed? That was me. No creature with fangs or claws could ever be scary when compared to bullying, which was constant both at home and at school.

      Reply
    13. the cat's ass*

      there was an article/thread/whatever someplace recently commenting on the things that terrified us as kids (vampires? zombies? alien invasions?) end up not taking up a lot of headspace once you’re an adult. So many other things to get wigged about: horrible people in politics, global warming, jobs and schools…maybe as adults we just transfer those fairy tale fears onto our bigger realer issues? Tho one of my realer fears as a kid was that we’d run out of gas when we took a car trip. It became a family joke, but we never ran out of gas and in adulthood my car gets filled back up at the 1/2 way mark. So there’s that.

      Reply
      1. RagingADHD*

        I’ve seen a meme about thinking that quicksand would be much more of a problem in adulthood than it turned out to be.

        Reply
    14. fposte*

      I was largely less supernatural, though I loved ghost stories and paranormal investigation stuff and more real world. I do remember being afraid of income tax at about 5, but that’s probably also an extreme example. It just seemed like this important vast expectation that I was guaranteed to fail at, mostly because I was 5 and didn’t have any real understanding of it.

      Reply
      1. Tuesday*

        I would never laugh at a 5-year-old who was afraid of income tax… but now that you’re safely past that, the idea is cracking me up!

        I have to say though, I think tax preparers take advantage of people’s fear of this important, complicated thing by throwing 48 pages of worksheets and stuff at you, when, for lots of people, all that really needs to go to the IRS is one double-sided form.

        Reply
        1. fposte*

          I think it’s funny too now. And as an adult I’m pleased to say I am no longer afraid of income tax. The other thing is that it’s not something you even have to get right on pain of death–you can make a mistake and it’s not the end of the world. Even paying a penalty isn’t that terrible–I missed a tax payment one year and had to pay a penalty of $5.

          Reply
          1. Tuesday*

            Yes, April 15 can give people a kind of do-or-die mindset. I remember a friend was in a panic about trying to make it to the post office in time, even though she was owed money!

            Reply
      2. RagingADHD*

        Oh, that reminds me, I remember being very small like 4 or 5 and dreaming that some people came to take my dad away in a van, and those people (or possibly the van itself) were The Mortgage.

        I had no idea what the word meant, but I guess I’d overheard my dad worrying about it. And since he wasn’t normally one to worry about things, I thought it must be something very scary.

        Reply
    15. Chaordic One*

      Mostly fears about mostly imaginary things. I grew up with all sorts of irrational fears about “The Devil” and sin. It was not helped by any number of horror movies, such as “The Exorcist” and “Rosemary’s Baby” which only made things worse. Being of a certain age, and having had the misfortune of Roman Catholic schools staffed by nuns who were generally cruel didn’t help. Those books and movies really played on the same things that the nuns taught. I remember being scared of “Twilight Zone” comic books where zombies were tearing the legs and arms off of beautiful young women and eating the legs and arms while the appendage-less women looked on. Strangely they didn’t seem to bleed or die. I was also afraid of UFOs.

      Reply
    16. Tuesday*

      For me, it was ghosts, and I think it came about because I had an older sister who talked about ghosts and other supernatural stuff as if they were real. Since she was older, I figured she knew more about them than me.

      Reply
    17. RagingADHD*

      I’d say that tornadoes (a real and common threat here) and vampires/the dark were about equally scary to me as a child in terms of intensity.

      However, I was only scared of tornadoes when there was a bad thunderstorm (which is when they happen). I was scared of vampires (or the dark in general) every night in bed, so that represents more total time being scared.

      After all, you don’t get any warning siren about vampires. They could just happen any time.

      Reply
    18. UKDancer*

      My fears were definitely more real world than fantasy. I was bullied at school and struggled to make friends so the things that worried me the most were getting bullied / teased and attempting to understand the children I had to spend time around. Fantasy was always my escape from reality so I never really was afraid of monsters / ghosts etc. I read anything I could get my hands on (whether it was age appropriate or not) but it didn’t appear to damage me very much. Growing up the worst things I experienced were at the hands of my peers and that affected my fears.

      The nightmares I had were around either falling (which I think came from a bad abseiling experience on a PGL holiday) or injections (from a really bad experience with the horrible school nurse who did our rubella jabs). I still have regular falling dreams but have stopped dreaming about injections although they’re still a thing I really dislike.

      Reply
    19. Elizabeth West*

      I used to be scared of vampires and ghosts. The latter is ironic considering I grew up on a haunted property and ghosts never “got” me. It lingered until I wrote a book about them and now I’m not the least bit afraid. I even dedicated the book to the ghost in the old barn, who is presumably still there though my family doesn’t own it anymore. In fact, if I go back to my hometown ever for any reason, I’m tempted to go out there and ask if I can visit the barn for a few minutes just to say hi. :)

      I’m not entirely sure where the ghost thing came from—I loved horror fiction even as a kid, even if it scared me. I thought it was fun. It might have been because I couldn’t see them, just feel them, and I didn’t like not knowing what was there. The monster in your mind is scarier than the one you can see and fight.

      As an adult, I’m warier of people. Ghosts can’t hurt me; people can. They can hurt me physically and emotionally, take away my bodily autonomy, and cut off my livelihood. That has the potential to affect me far more than a bodiless entity lurking in an outbuilding or a mysterious perfume scent in the upstairs dining room of the Lemp Mansion (true story; I smelled the ghost smell!). I’ve had some experiences that weren’t pleasant, but they weren’t exactly threatening either.

      Vampires are still scary. To this day I sleep with the covers over my neck!

      Reply
    20. Rainy*

      I had a real fear of riding buses that definitely originated from the time, as a brand new public-school student in third grade, that I was forced onto the wrong bus by a teacher. A kind older student recognized me, because I lived about half a mile from her aunt, and asked what I was doing on that bus. She told the bus driver that she knew the house and would walk me home and then go to her aunt’s house and get a ride back to her house, and she did. It took moving to a city with decent transit that was hard to have a car in before I overcame that fear–I was in my 30s.

      Most of the stuff I was actually seriously worried about as a small child was related to being raised in a cult. I realized pretty young that my only realistic way out was to go to university for something that you needed an accredited university degree for so that the cult’s college wouldn’t be an option. I was pretty fixated on that as I got closer and closer to the age where getting out was possible, and so was understandably worried that something would happen to sidetrack my escape.

      Reply
    21. matcha123*

      My childhood fears/worries are pretty similar to my adult ones:

      – Velociraptors
      (I mean…who isn’t? And add in the fast zombies since graduating hs and watching 28 Days Later)

      – Being watched by an evil ghost while I’m in bed
      (Since moving house, this one doesn’t come up as often. In elementary school, I had a very peculiar dream that is way too difficult to describe here. Nothing particularly frightening happened, but it freaked me out)

      There are others, but these are the tamer ones.

      Reply
    22. marvin the paranoid android*

      Oh man, I had so many intense fears as a kid. Mostly they were “real-world” things but I was afraid of them completely out of proportion to how likely they were–things like house fires or falling off a large passenger boat into the ocean. I think I was probably channelling my day to day fears into scenarios that some adult had once mentioned that I should be careful about. Almost as if I was only allowed to be afraid of officially sanctioned things and so I really committed to those.

      Reply
    23. AGD*

      Very interesting question.

      Mine were very real but very unlikely things, like the house coming apart at the seams, or natural disasters, or stranger kidnappings, or black holes.

      Reply
      1. Cj*

        As a child, I repeatedly dreamt about a volcano appearing and erupting in our field. Pretty unlikely since I live in the Midwest. The dream was brought on by a set of child encyclopedias that had a picture of a volcano on the front cover that lookec really scary, especially to a six-year-old.

        Reply
        1. Coenobita*

          Did you ever read the kids’ book Hill of Fire? (It was on Reading Rainbow, if you’re the right age for that.) It’s a true story about a volcano more or less suddenly appearing in a field, in Mexico in the 1940s – so literally your nightmare. I loved that book but it terrified me! I was also very afraid of giant, town-swallowing floods (Noah style). Interestingly enough, I now work in the hazard mitigation/disaster resilience field.

          Reply
    24. Fellow Traveller*

      As a child, I was convinced that DB Cooper was hiding out in my basement and that was terrifying to me.
      I never loved dark, unknown places and I had a very active imagination. The fact that the DB Cooper case was such an unsolved mystery just fed into that, I think.
      Not sure if that counts as a real or imagined fear. I feel like on a certain level all fears are real and all fears are imagined…

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader*

        It’s not unheard of for escapees to be hiding in basements. I think less now and more in the early to mid 1900s. I know of a story where a woman baked cookies for her family every day. She put them on racks and put the racks in the basement. Since she did this all the time, the cookies were laid out in neat rows and columns. So she could not help but notice there were cookies missing off the racks after she left the cookies in the basement. But she was alone in the house. At the same time it was on the news that someone had escaped custody. She put 2 and 2 together and called the police from a neighbor’s house. Yep. The guy was in her basement.
        The smell of the fresh baked cookies was his undoing.

        I agree that many fears have some basis in reality or else the fear would not take root and set up housekeeping in our brains. But sometimes the story does not end with the horror we think it will end in.

        Reply
    25. Cambridge Comma*

      I was terrified of the devil, going to hell, dying without having been to confession. I worried about how I was going to arrange to get myself martyred in a tiny Oxfordshire village.
      The trouble is that I believed everything I was taught about religion whereas I’m now sure that my parents and teachers didn’t believe 99% of it.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree that they did not believe what they were saying. I always said my father was a Closet Protestant. His beliefs went contrary to the Catholic Church more often than not. I enjoyed talking to him about this stuff because he did his own thinking. As far as the teachers, they did not live their beliefs that often so that spoke for itself.

        Reply
    26. mreasy*

      My home life was fine but I was and to this day atill am a scaredy kid. Because I am a child from the ‘80s, my primary fear was being abducted.

      Reply
    27. Girasol*

      Real world: plumbing. I had endless nightmares of trying to turn the water off and whichever way I’d turn the faucet, even more would come out, until the bathroom filled up with water. Mom said that when I was really little I was afraid of going down the bathtub drain. A psychic once told me that I drowned in a cistern in a previous life. I don’t believe a word of it but it certainly was a creepy thought.

      Reply
    28. Smol Book Wizard*

      Real world: dogs, although I also loved them; they were unpredictable but I wanted so badly to be able to predict and adore them without fear.
      Mainly monsters, though. Things in the dark. Things in unknown rooms, which took the shape in my mind of whatever eerie creature I’d read about most recently – not that I read horror stories, but I did read a lot of fantasy and the occasional mystery, so they would have that vibe of “the ghastly half-known” or the exact right-wrong combination of words for me to worry about them. Kept me awake a good handful of nights, even into my teen years.
      This combined horribly whenever I have encountered any adaptation or permutation of the Hound of the Baskervilles. To this day I haven’t tried re-reading it, although I’m sure my baby Sheppie would let me know if he turned up, and would probably want to play anyway.
      I also took a steep nosedive in my fear of the dark/monsters when I stayed up late one night writing a story with some really good monster-fighting sequences and, somehow, it burned it out of me for a while… although I do occasionally get zombies-may-be-behind-me vibes on a dark staircase.

      Reply
    29. KoiFeeder*

      I had severe thanatophobia which manifested itself in both “real world” stuff (car accidents, aging, my parents dying, etc.) and “fictional” stuff (I am pretty scared of ghosts to this day, and I cannot handle any zombie media at all).

      Being autistic helped shield me from some of the external stuff; I wasn’t afraid of not making friends because, well, I already wasn’t! And I am very firmly on Guillermo del Toro’s side when it comes to most monsters, I’m far more able to relate to the dragon than I am to the knight, and the princess and I are practically from different planets.

      Reply
    30. Not a cat*

      Vampires, ghosts, and being shoved down the steps. The spookies were from too many horror movies. The stairs were because my mother, in a rage, pushed me down the steps. I broke my left arm in three places and my collarbone. It took my parents a full day to realize, I wasn’t crying, rocking, and holding my arm because I was a brat. but because I needed to go to the hospital. I don’t remember the fall, but I clearly remember the car ride to the hospital because my parents were coaching me about what actually happened.

      Reply
    31. Sleepless*

      I had a fear of putting on my shirt and there being a bee inside, for the very good reason that my mom dried our clothes on the line in summer, and one day when I put my shirt on there was indeed a bee in it. I think I was over 40 by the time I didn’t panic every time I got poked by a shirt tag.

      Reply
      1. KoiFeeder*

        Oh, yes, yellow jackets once nested in the walls of my bedroom and ended up chewing their way through the wall and immediately trying to kill me, and I don’t think I’m ever going to get over that fear for as long as I live.

        Reply
    32. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Real — nuclear war (it was the 70s)
      Imaginary — ghosts/monsters under the bed; octopus under the covers at the end of my bed; midnight
      Only cure for imaginary fears was staying up late re-reading *Alice in Wonderland*, *The Secret Garden*, and *Mary Poppins.* I’m just naturally kind of an anxious person (and insomniac). Only cure for real fear was end of the Cold War.

      Reply
      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        Real — dogs. I had a bunch of not-very-good experiences. Only cure was having dog lovers teach me some basic getting-along-with-dogs tips.

        Reply
    33. Might Be Spam*

      My fears were real world fears. When I was in kindergarten, I remember the neighborhood moms being really upset during the Cuban missile crisis. They were afraid of being separated from their kids if we were bombed during the school day. My dad worked for IBM and they ran a survey asking if people would shoot their neighbors who asked for supplies. I ended up being afraid to leave the house and not being able to get rid of things because I might need it someday. I was under so much stress that I frequently vomited (once in my sleep) and missed 31 days of kindergarten during that October and November.

      I still have to make a conscious effort to not buy more than I need and I have a lot of trouble getting rid of things that I no longer need.

      Reply
    34. Colette*

      I was terrified of lightning when I was probably 12-15-ish. My bedroom was in the basement, so I was fine at home, but when I visited my grandparents, I slept on the second floor and would like awake terrified if there was a storm.

      Reply
    35. lasslisa*

      Real stuff, like someone dying or suddenly being very ill or having a psychotic break. My home life was idyllic, though I did have a few issues with friendships, but I did have a young relative die suddenly when I was in middle school and all the scare stories adults tell (“teenagers were drag racing and one hit this girl’s dad who was coming to pick her up from homecoming” / that song about the car crash and dead girlfriend / etc) really did sink in as meaningful cautionary tales.

      Reply
    36. Slinky*

      Both, really. I was afraid of a lot of imaginary things. I was never really a monster-under-the-bed kid, but I was convinced there was a monster in the plumbing (a childhood nightmare that persisted for years). I was afraid of ghosts and a preview of a horror movie I saw on TV once. But there were also real-world concerns. For my whole life, I’ve hated feeling lost. Logically, I know I can retrace my steps and get home or nowadays pull out my phone, but I always have a feeling that I’ll just wander lost until I die. That started as a child. In addition, I was always afraid of minor things (losing favorite toys, my pets dying), which turned out to be the first symptoms of what would later be diagnosed as anxiety and OCD.

      Reply
  15. Fall Leaves*

    I’ve been watching college acceptance videos (I don’t know why, I finished grad school 10 years ago). I’m not from the US so I’m not super familiar with the process over there. I have a silly question: why are these kids ecstatic after each acceptance after their ‘dream school’ accepted them? I don’t see the point of saying ‘I got accepted into 12 colleges.’ It’s not like you can attend more than one at the same time.
    I understand that this is a very stressful process and each acceptance makes them feel like their hard work paid off, but do other acceptances matter anywhere? Am I missing something?

    Reply
    1. PX*

      My understanding is that having multiple acceptances basically means you have more options. And if you’re good, you can also play them off each other in terms of asking for things like scholarship money (much like how having multiple job offers can let you negotiate for more things).

      Plus also the validation.

      Reply
      1. Not everywhere is like Newcastle*

        Exactly. Not sure why it’s be difficult to understand. You can’t work more than one job either but you’d feel pretty good if you got offers from all 12 you applied for.

        Reply
    2. Loopy*

      I went to college 15 years ago and I rememeber it feeling like the biggest deal in the world. But also, I spend a whole summer jaunting around to campus tours that made college seems like the best experience ever. I visited mostly private, expensive campuses, filled with beautiful buildings and landscaping, got brochures full of happy students and left with my ears full of success stories. In many ways these colleges were very much sold to me as a potential customer, promising a successful and fulfilling life to come after four years of growth and learning in a beautiful place.

      To put it simply, I had stars in my eyes. I badly wanted to get in to the top tier schools. I had the opposite experience in that I made it on to almost all waitlists- I was technically good enough but definitely not the best among stiff competition. It felt like my life was over (I got into a few perfectly good schools and was fine and did well). So I totally get why getting into the dream school(so) is cause for such extreme excitement. And getting into many means you get to pick from all sorts of wonderful options.

      Reply
      1. londonedit*

        I guess here, unless you’re trying to get into Oxford or Cambridge, there isn’t really the concept of a ‘dream school’. You apply to five or six universities before you sit your final A level exams and if you’re accepted then each uni will give you a ‘conditional offer’ based on getting a certain set of grades. Then you list a first choice and an ‘insurance choice’ that usually has a lower grade requirement, do your exams in May/June and in August get your results, and if you get the grades for the first choice then that’s where you go, or if not then probably your insurance choice. If you fail to get the results you need for either then you go through what’s called clearing, where other universities might offer you a place but obviously it wouldn’t be what you’d originally planned. So I guess results day would be the equivalent of the ‘college acceptance letter’ day but it’s not really the same, you’ll have a decent idea of what your results will probably be (unless you really mess up).

        Reply
        1. banoffee pie*

          yes, as far as I remember the offers kind of trickled in through the post and on the UCAS website both, there wasn’t one big day of ‘acceptance’. I do remember some people being very excited or disappointed if they got into/didn’t get into a university they were very keen on. For me, I really wanted to get into a uni in a big city so I mostly applied to those. Not really sure about making videos, I don’t think it was/is a thing here (?)

          Reply
        2. Loopy*

          College is a big for profit business and so there are hundreds of private schools in addition to the public state schools and they are all marketing towards you- that’s definitely a big piece of how the dream school idea gets pushed and has become so big. Tuitions are really high and sadly there’s a lot of money to be made from students who have no idea what they’re doing when they take out massive loans. Being excited about this amazing once in a lifetime experience helps them overlook the realities- so schools definitely push that dream school vibe.

          Reply
            1. Sunflower*

              Yes most colleges are non-profits but that doesn’t mean everything Loopy said isn’t true and non-profit schools do not gain profits from rising enrollments. The profits may be required to be refunneled back into the school but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in the way of administers receiving higher salaries, benefits and perks in the the same way a private company raising costs of services results in additional funds in C-suite pockets.

              For profit colleges can also be accredited (they are vastly less respected but still accredited)

              Reply
              1. ThatGirl*

                Sure, there can be big bucks in higher ed, but they’re mostly not for-profit. And as you note, for-profit schools are generally not respected.

                Reply
            2. Loopy*

              Whoops- thank you for correcting me. Apologies for the misinformation. Weirdly, I knew for profit schools are a much smaller subset (like university of phoenix I think) but during my tirade my brain conveniently forgot that AND didn’t stop to remind me to fact check before posting. Definitely my bad.

              Reply
        3. Batgirl*

          The UK system was a bit more dramatic for me and some friends actually. A few were given some unconditional offers based on the fact the universities in question had acceptance programmes including tours and interviews, as they needed a higher intake of comprehensive kids. My friends were ecstatic. I was declined my uni of choice because my rubbish sixth form lowballed the estimated grades they’d told me I could get, “in case they were wrong”, and after getting the required grades, I couldn’t make it through clearing in time. I got an unconditional offer via letter, a year later and it feels absolutely brilliant to have a confirmed offer come in the post like that.

          Reply
    3. Kate Daniels*

      In part, it’s because everything is a competition. I was accepted into 12 schools = I’m super smart compared to that person over there who was only accepted into two (overlooking the fact that it also means the student is likely also super privileged to have the money to pay the application fee to apply to all of those schools).

      But also, having more options gives the student better bargaining power to play financial aid and scholarship offers off one another.

      Reply
      1. londonedit*

        Yeah see we don’t have application fees and you can’t just apply to a million universities – everyone goes through the same system via UCAS (university and college admissions service if I remember rightly – it may all be slightly different now as I was doing this in the late 90s). So apart from Oxbridge snobbery there’s no competition in terms of applying to more places, and everyone gets the same student loan and pays the same tuition fees (unless you’re in Scotland where three are no fees) so that doesn’t factor either.

        Reply
        1. allathian*

          I think that the UK is like Finland in the sense that only academic grades count for a place in most universities? So you don’t need a huge list of extracurriculars to show you’re “interesting” enough to contribute something special to the student body.

          Reply
          1. londonedit*

            Yes it’s similar – you have to write a ‘personal statement’ for your UCAS application (which all the universities you apply for will see) where you talk about how much you want to do the course and anything you’ve done at school that boosts your application and makes you sound like an intelligent person, but we don’t have the culture of millions of extra activities – yes OK you can play rugby or netball for your year group against other schools but no one actually watches those matches – and everything stands on your exam results, everyone takes the same exams and it depends on how well you do in them. So there’s nothing like the US honor roll or playing high school football or whatever. School seems a lot more low-key here, you just turn up and go to lessons and do your exams at the end of it, and if you do well in those then you’ll be accepted into university (or there are also opportunities to go into other courses or apprenticeships or whatever).

            Reply
      2. banoffee pie*

        In the UK I could only apply for 6 universities (and also applied for Trinity Dublin because that didn’t count as part of the limit, obviously). Applying for 12 sounds exhausting, especially if you have to write different essays for them all. But maybe you just send the same essay, I wouldn’t know too much about it.

        Reply
    4. fueled by coffee*

      (Jaded reply to follow):

      First, I think some of it is that it takes a certain type of teenager to film themselves reacting to their acceptance letters in the first place. I was absolutely racked with anxiety, especially opening the very first response I got (I had somehow convinced myself that I wasn’t getting in anywhere) and opened all of my letters in private. Telling people that you were hearing back from, say, UCLA, and then having to explain that you got rejected when they asked you how it went felt bad.

      Like others had said, some people see it as an accomplishment to get into a lot of schools (and yes, it’s probably an ego boost to get into all 10 schools you applied to or whatever!), but at my high school it was also seen as poor form to go around bragging about that kind of thing. We absolutely told each other about getting into our top choices or once we had made a decision, and with close friends who I knew had similar grades to me I might have shared more details, but it came across as really rude to go around bragging about getting into 10 schools when you know that other people were getting lots of rejections from those same schools. And because the schools people were applying to were stratified based on grades and to some extent family finances, it was especially poor form to go around bragging about getting into Harvard and Yale when other students were desperately hoping to get into any of the in-state public schools.

      Reply
      1. RagingADHD*

        This.

        On top of this, you’ll occasionally see a news article about a teen who got accepted to X amount of schools. There are a lot of parents and grandparents who really, really *really* want to show off how amazing and brilliant their kid is, and if they can rack up an unusual number of acceptances they might become newsworthy and thereby get a wider audience.

        Reply
      2. Salymander*

        Yeah this.

        None of the kids at my school who were accepted by any of the so called top schools bragged about it at all except maybe to close family or friends. It was seen as being bad form. Also, my school had a very high number of kids who were accepted to prestigious universities, combined with a large number who had to go to a less expensive school or start at community college due to finances. This meant that attending a prestigious school was seen as being very much a question of family finances and luck as opposed to just being a matter of cleverness and hard work on the part of the student. Bragging about it would brand you as a huge, clueless jerk. Maybe posting it on YouTube is less obnoxious than boasting in person though. I mean, in person you have to walk away if you don’t want to hear it, and it is hard to avoid feeling either annoyed or hurt and left out. At least on YouTube you can just not watch it. I definitely wouldn’t post something like that myself, though.

        Reply
      3. Marion Ravenwood*

        Is it actually teenagers filming themselves doing this though? I get the sense it might come more from the parents (eg “look at my kid who’s so smart they got accepted into 12 colleges!”).

        Reply
    5. fposte*

      There’s also the fact that money isn’t always clear at the acceptance moment. Sometimes a scholarship eligibility makes the difference in where you can go, and if the dream school is pricey and unaided acceptance may be a moot point.

      Reply
    6. LGC*

      A lot of it is prestige. Being accepted to – let’s say – Harvard AND Yale is a huge deal at that age because it’s so competitive. (Same goes for the other Ivies. And a lot of other top-flight schools like MIT, CalTech, Stanford, NYU…I know I’m a little coastal-heavy, but I’m from the Northeast and I applied to a lot of those schools.) Basically, it’s signaling to the world that your application was so desirable multiple high-status schools accepted you.

      (And this doesn’t just hold for Ivy League schools! Although it feels most common with those.)

      Once you’re out of college, this matters much less because you’re right. Most jobs won’t care that you got in to both Harvard and Yale, just that you graduated either Harvard or Yale. But the problem is that you’re talking about 17/18-year-olds, who are not known for their prudence. Plus, we’re not the target audience.

      Reply
      1. fueled by coffee*

        Yes. There’s also that for most college-bound teens, there’s a lot of pressure to do well in high school for the sake of getting into college, and so getting in becomes a huge achievement on its own (and it is! My parents were super proud of me for the schools I got into! We just didn’t publicize every single acceptance to the world).

        There’s also a weird status thing with colleges in the US. I’m of the personal opinion that *in general,* there’s no career benefit to going to Harvard versus any of the other top 100 or so schools in the country. (Sure, there are a few finance or consulting firms that might care, and you might end up being frat bros with a Kennedy or something who can help you network, but beyond that, nobody is turning down a job candidate who went to, like, the University of Maryland or the University of Oregon because it wasn’t Harvard). But (some) people get bent out of shape about their kid having to get into the absolute best school, which is an insane amount of pressure for a 17/18 year old, especially for something which, in the grand scheme of things, is not *that* important.

        The Harvards and Yales of the world of reach schools for absolutely everyone, even if you have the grades and test scores and extracurriculars to technically get in. But because they get like 40,000 applications for 1,000 or so seats, it’s ultimately kind of a crapshoot about who gets in or not (Varsity Blues notwithstanding). But people still treat luck-based system like it’s about merit, and like going to THE Ohio State because you didn’t get into Stanford is a tragedy, instead of, you know, a chance to get an equally good education that you should still be really proud of because it’s *also* hard to get into Ohio State!

        Reply
        1. Clisby*

          When we lived in Atlanta, a young woman who had graduated from one of the Ivies (Yale, I think) with a BA in English actually wrote a letter to the local newspaper lamenting that even with her Ivy League education, she hadn’t been able to land a job in PR/marketing in Atlanta. I was like, “Honey, what were you thinking? That Yale degree and $2 will get you a cup of coffee somewhere. If you wanted to work in PR/marketing in Atlanta, why didn’t you go to UGA? Or GA State? Or even GA Tech?”

          Reply
          1. Clisby*

            Adding … I guess a BA in English from Yale is a big plus if you want to go into academia, and are going on for a PhD. Or maybe you’re going on the law school.
            Other than that, it’s a BA in English.

            Reply
    7. Chaordic One*

      I grew up in a rural state where the state university system pretty much accepted anyone who managed to graduate from high school, or who had a GED, and who had a C average. Getting into college (at least in the state university system) wasn’t a big deal.

      OTOH, once you got in, the colleges were horribly overcrowded and there weren’t enough instructors or classes or dormitory rooms. A lot of the classes were large and you didn’t get the attention you needed. You ended up taking classes you didn’t care about and that didn’t help you just to stay in school so that you might be able to take the class you needed for your major during the next quarter or semester.

      This was especially true for popular majors (engineering, computer science, nursing, business administration and accounting) A lot students got frustrated and dropped out or ended up switching majors to other things. I really think that a lot of the students who started in more demanding majors such as engineering or nursing, would have finished and graduated in those majors if they had more individual attention from their instructors and if they could have enrolled in the classes they needed for their majors. There were high drop-out rates and it usually took students more than the 4 years it was supposed to take in order to graduate because you couldn’t get into the classes you needed to graduate.

      Reply
    8. Zona the Great*

      To add another angle: often, when a person of color or even a severely impoverished person gets accepted into 12 Ivy League schools, it’s as if the heavens have opened and the divine is smiling down. Especially in the US where higher ed is out of reach for so many. Especially in a world where opportunities only exist for some. This should be celebrated and shown on a loop. God bless those who had nothing a fought for everything.

      Reply
    9. Fellow Traveller*

      Hmmm… i didn’t realize this was a thing, but it strikes me a very performative.
      I applied to maybe 8 or 9 schools as a high school senior. I was accepted at one top Ivy League University, but rejected at five of the other private schools I applied to. I have to say, getting rejected from several small liberal arts college really shook my confidence, and for a long time I thought my Ivy League acceptance was a mistake.
      I mean rejection is always hard, but the college application process is just such a personal thing and I think that makes it even harder.

      Reply
  16. Richard Hershberger*

    What I Just Read: “I Cover the Waterfront” by Max Miller. This was originally published in 1932 and inspired a movie and a jazz standard of the same name. I recently watched the movie because it has Claudette Colbert, for whom I am a sucker. She was unable to save it from the hack script. I suspected, however, that the book it was ostensibly based on might be more interesting. I was right. Indeed, it is a minor classic.

    Miller was a reporter for the San Diego Sun, the third best paper in a town with three papers. His beat was the waterfront, just like it says on the tin. The book is a series a short (often just three or four pages) personal essays with the unifying themes of the waterfront and how at the advanced age of 28 Miller is stuck in a rut and fears he is doomed to do this for the rest of his life. He wants to be a novelist, because of course he does, in New York literary circles. The San Diego waterfront in the 1920s is not that.

    The thing with volumes of personal essays is that they can be wonderful or they can be terrible. Sturgeon’s Law suggests the odds favor terrible. Either way, you can’t tell from a description. You can only go on reputation, or just take your chances. So I am here to tell you this is an amazingly good book. For a point of reference with my own tastes, I admire the essays of Annie Dillard. These have the advantage of being shorter, so you can dip in and out. I ended up reading the entire (not terribly long) volume in a couple of days.

    The irony is that Miller, with his ennui about aging, was at his peak. The book made his reputation, plus enough money to buy a house. He steadily produced books for the next twenty years. The critical consensus is that they mostly aren’t bad, but… With “I Cover the Waterfront” he had caught lightning in a bottle, and he never managed to repeat it.

    Reply
    1. Pam Adams*

      Sounds interesting! I love Mary Lasswell’s Suds in Your Eye novels, mostly set in San Diego, starting in 1940.

      I’ve forgotten the title- what us your recent book?

      Reply
      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The one published in 2019 is “Strike Four: The Evolution of Baseball.” I am currently working on a history of baseball from 1744-1871, but that won’t be out for a while.

        Reply
    2. Fellow Traveller*

      Thanks! I read the first few pages online and I think this would be perfect for my Husband’s Christmas present. He loves Ernie Pyle and this may be similar in feel.

      Reply
  17. The Other Dawn*

    Anyone have experience with hip replacement? How did it go in terms of recovery? How do you feel now?

    About three months after lumbar fusion last year, bilateral hip bursitis set in. It’s been a struggle for a year and a half to get it to go away. Tried a long round of prescription ibuprofen which did next to nothing but mess up my stomach mostly. Muscle relaxers. Physical therapy made it worse so they had me stop. I did a bunch of cortisone injections into the bursa with limited success. I’m now onto an injection directly into the hip joint and that is helping a lot more, though it’s not 100%. Fingers crossed it stays that way this time; however, it’s very early yet.

    I asked the doctor what’s next if this doesn’t work. He said hip replacement. I was surprised they do that for bursitis. He said in addition to the bursitis, I also have shallow hip sockets. There’s also arthritis in both hips. And the fusion puts a higher load on the hips in terms of changing how I move, which creates more wear and tear. So I made up my mind that if this is something I will eventually need even if the bursitis goes away, I’m going for it. Not right this minute, of course, but if the injections wear off and another round doesn’t help. I learned my lesson with my back problems: I’m not spending another year and half trying a dozen different things, including long-term prescription pain meds, when I could just fix the problem and move on.

    Reply
    1. Venus*

      I have known people to get hip and/or knee replacements, and they all seem to wish that it happened earlier, and physio is absolutely critical.

      Reply
    2. Puffle*

      Not a first hand experience and not a hip replacement, but a close relative had a knee replacement 4-5 years ago. Overall verdict is that it’s been a game changer. He’s not quite got total range of movement (can’t bend the knee 100%- maybe 90%?), but he can go to the gym, go hiking etc without problems, which was unthinkable before the op.

      It was a longish recovery and certainly a case of ‘it’ll get worse before it gets better’. He couldn’t drive for a number of weeks, and had a fair amount of discomfort/ difficulty sleeping at first, but it all healed well and was definitely worth it long term. He put a lot of effort into the physio (ie doing exactly what he was told, doing all the exercises everyday), which really helped with the final result.

      Basically, in my relative’s experience, it was tough but has 100% paid off.

      Best of luck with whatever you decide to do!

      Reply
      1. londonedit*

        Same with my mum – she had a partial knee replacement and it’s been amazing, but it was definitely a case of ‘gets worse before it gets better’ and the physio was absolutely the most important thing. She was taking painkillers for quite a while because she needed to be pain-free to do the amount of walking and physio she had to do in order to get the best result. You’re literally walking the day after surgery and doing all sorts of physio exercises, building those and the walking up all the time. One of the things she struggled most with was dealing with all the well-meaning friends and family who kept telling her to ‘rest up’ and that she was ‘doing too much’ when the regime you’re on after surgery really is a lot! You absolutely have to get the new joint moving and rebuild the muscles around it or you’ll never get a full range of movement. She’s so glad she did it now, though – she’s absolutely free of pain, having had awful knee trouble for years, and she can walk and cycle all she wants. She was really active before her knee slowed her down so it really is a new lease of life.

        Reply
    3. L. Ron Jeremy*

      I replied to your last thread on this topic where I mentioned that repeated steroid hip injections can cause your hip joint, bones to necrosis and then hip replacement is your only cure.

      My wife has traveled your path with 4 major back surgeries and more knee operations than I can count. She currently has both knees replaced and had hip replacement surgery two years ago, all due to arthritis. She still has periodic pain in the right knee and random pain, muscle spasms in the replaced right hip. Her doc says all looks good on xray and no infection; could be her new normal or the replacement hip components still growing in. Time will tell.

      Reply
      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Steroid injections: I have no first-hand experience with them, but read a lot of medical records in my job, with discussions with the patient about long term outcome. My sense is that injections are a good choice when what you need is to calm everything down for a while while things heal. When you are in constant pain you tend to move wonky, constantly aggravating the problem. But injections are a medium term solution. You feel great for a few weeks. If the underlying problem is not one that will heal in that time, then you are back where you started. The Other Dawn’s description does not sound like one where injections are the solution. But I’m not a doctor. I’m not even a lawyer. Don’t take my advice on anything other than early baseball history. There I am an expert.

        Reply
        1. The Other Dawn*

          Yes, the injections are just something for the medium term and I don’t intend to do any more of them than necessary to show they’re no longer working. Why continue if they don’t work, or don’t work for long? The injection directly into the joint (left last month, right this week) have helped much more than the bursa injections. I’m not confident this will be the end of the hip pain, but at least I’m not able to sit and actually work when I’m at work, move much more easily without pain, and not constantly be thinking about my hips.

          Reply
    4. Ali G*

      No me directly, but two people I work with have had this done. They said it was life changing. They were both up and walking within hours, but on pain killers for about a week. They were both obviously limping/in pain prior to the replacement. I believe there is rehab too. If they were reading your post they would say go for it.

      Reply
    5. A Thing*

      My mom had a hip replaced in 2019 and she was so satisfied she got the other replaced in 2020 haha. They were both done as out patient procedures, so she didn’t have a hospital stay. My understanding is that recover was pretty straightforward she just had to keep up with her physical therapy.

      Reply
    6. Bastionate*

      DO IT AS EARLY AS YOU ARE TOLD.

      I say this having watched several family members and friends suffer through years of physical pain by delaying it. The ones who got it done early or right when the doctor suggested it had a much faster and easier recovery, and suffered fewer complications.

      But, even the one person who waited 5+ years due to fear has experienced such a dramatic spike in quality of life, it is bonkers.

      Reply
      1. londonedit*

        Absolutely. My mum’s surgery was delayed for nearly a year because of Covid and her movement deteriorated so much in that time. There wasn’t anything she could do about the delay and she was lucky that it didn’t do any long-term damage, but I think it would have been much easier in terms of recovery if she’d had it as planned in April 2020.

        Reply
      2. The Other Dawn*

        Yes, this is exactly what I’m thinking. I’m not interested in trying 20 more things that might help the pain, but not actually fix the problem. I did that with my back and even though some of it helped for a time, I really should have done the surgery earlier. It wasn’t fear. Just a feeling of, “Have a I REALLY tried everything?” Now I want a fix, not a band aid.

        Reply
      3. Wishing You Well*

        YES, get it as early as you can.
        My friend had a hip replacement but not until she unknowingly damaged a lot of tissue due to jagged arthritic hip bones. She did all the physical therapy and followed all the restrictions – not crossing the affected knee over her center-line, etc. When she was released from all restrictions, though, she stepped the wrong way and dislocated her new hip. Cue an ambulance to the ER where they reset the hip. Now she’s at a greater risk for dislocating her new hip in the future.
        1. Before surgery, get yourself a couple pairs of roomy, knit pants with elastic waists, NOT leggings. Wear them inside-out to keep the seam from rubbing your incision.
        2. Be mindful of stepping the wrong way even when you’re cleared of all restrictions.
        3. If you dislocate your new hip, get it back in place as fast as you can.
        Godspeed and Best Wishes!

        Reply
    7. BlueWolf*

      My grandfather just had his hip replaced. He is in his 80s and his doctor said he should have had it done decades ago, although the hip was damaged even further due to cancer. After having to be on painkillers pretty much constantly for the last couple years, he was able to go off painkillers and was able to go out with his walker for the first time just a couple weeks after his surgery. It has made a huge difference to his mobility and pain levels. Definitely don’t wait as long as my grandfather did, and definitely stick to the PT schedule.

      Reply
    8. the cat's ass*

      I work in orthopedics and hip replacements are something nobody really wants to do but something that almost everyone wishes that they’d done sooner, especially with the newer anterior approach which has a faster recovery time. Wishing you the best!

      Reply
    9. Chaordic One*

      My grandmother had hip replacement surgery in her late 70s and it went very well. She was in chronic pain before and becoming quite depressed as a result of that. Her doctor told her that both of her hips had severe arthritis and looked bad, but only one of them was giving her problems and she ended up only having that one replaced.

      Additionally, her leg on the side where she had the hip replacement surgery was slightly shorter than her other one. The doctor was able to adjust the artificial hip in such a way that afterwards her legs were the same length which was a bit of a bonus. She felt so much better afterwards and was able to resume an active life into her late 80s. It certainly improved the quality of her life for at least a decade and she never regretted the surgery.

      Reply
    10. RagingADHD*

      My dad had both hips replaced for arthritis, a couple of years apart, and wished he’d started 10 years earlier. He had a horrible limp and was in constant pain before. Looking back at my wedding video, I’m shocked he could walk at all. We didn’t realize how bad it was getting because his limp got worse so gradually.

      He was in his 70s, had the op on a Tuesday and went home Friday. He never needed any painkillers beyond regular Tylenol because the pain was so bad before the operation that the healing process felt like minimal soreness by comparison (YMMV, of course, of course). The roughest part for him was the nausea coming out of anesthetic.

      He couldn’t drive for a few weeks or play golf for like, 8 weeks? IIRC? He just did all his PT like a trouper and is happily bionic now. He’s much more active and healthy in his mid-80s because he had that 10-15 years of good mobility at a crucial point of life.

      I think it was helpful that he had them done at a dedicated joint replacement center, where all they do is hips and knees all the time. Knees on Monday, hips on Tuesday, everyone except the very few extremely fragile cases goes home on Friday. All the surgeons, nurses, and PTs specialize in that one specific thing, and they have a really good system.

      Reply
      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        See, up til you mentioned “golf” I questioned if you were me. So I’m tagging along – my dad has had his hip replaced, was in horrible pain for +/- 15 years prior and just kept putting it off. No painkillers beyond Tylenol, because it was that bad prior. Heck, I have experience with that and a tendon reconstruction (no painkillers needed because it wasn’t as awful as the tear had been). He’s back to biking, skating, and all the other things he’s enjoyed. Has been for months. He’s said if the other hip starts showing signs of going, he’s asking to circumvent the ridiculousness that he endured in order to avoid it on the replaced hip.

        Reply
    11. My Brain Is Exploding*

      I know several people who have had hip replacements. I know one who has had her hips AND knees replaced. She said the knee surgery recovery is far worse in terms of pain but the hip surgery is worse in terms of recovery restrictions (certain ways you have to sleep, don’t cross your legs, etc.)

      Reply
    12. A Feast of Fools*

      I had both hips replaced in 2013 (two separate surgeries). I was dead broke at the time so I had it done at the county teaching hospital. They were still teaching the “anterior” incision method, which is where they make a 9-10 inch cut down the side of your hip to get to the hip socket. They cut through everything, including muscles. It has a longer recovery period and more complications than the “frontal” incision method where they make maybe a 4-inch incision in the bend of your hip between your thigh and your waist, and then just pull the muscles out of the way to get to the socket.

      The incision site of my first implant got infected and I needed a 14-day course of really strong antibiotics.

      I dislocated my second prothesis exactly one month post-surgery. I had to wear what was basically a body brace for three months afterward.

      Fear of a 2nd dislocation kept me from crossing my ankle(s) over my knee(s) until recently, so putting on socks and shoes was a bit of a pain.

      BUT… I was in so much pain pre-surgery that I was afraid to walk. I had avascular necrosis, which meant that the blood supply to my femoral head was slowly being cut off, and therefore the top of my femur was intermittently fracturing. Sometimes I could walk through the house and be 100% fine. Other times, the bone would fracture a bit and I’d fall to my knees because of the excruciating pain.

      Nowadays I can walk for hours, lift extremely heavy things, dance, run, etc. You know. . . be a normal 55-year old.

      So even with all the complications and issues I had post-surgery, I would 100% do it again.

      And, like, I’ll *have* to do it again at some point. I was 46 the first time around and the prostheses don’t last forever.

      Do all your post-surgery exercises. Follow *ALL* instructions regarding how to sit, bend, sleep, and move in the first 8 weeks. And then stay really, really active in the immediate years afterward.

      My ex-MIL had her knees replaced and was so happy to be pain-free but then just. . . puttered around the house, and let her muscles atrophy and her joint sacs (bursa) dry out from lack of movement. She’s in a wheelchair now.

      My mom had her right hip replaced five years ago. She only did her post-surgery exercises when the home-health aide visited and forced her to. Her muscles atrophied, her flexibility went away, and now she can’t walk from her chair to the kitchen without holding onto things along the way. The surgery was a success by every measure, but she wasted it by sitting on her @ss. Don’t be like my mom. :-)

      Reply
    13. Maxie's Mommy*

      Bank your own blood beforehand, and do as much PT as possible afterwards. An elevated toilet at home was wonderful.

      Reply
    14. WoodswomanWrites*

      My mom had her hip replaced about 20 years ago. Now in her 90s, she’s still doing great with no restrictions, and the prostheses and surgery are much improved since then. As others have said, physical therapy afterward is critical. While the surgeon will fix the condition, it’s the physical therapist who will ensure your recovery. Make sure to do the exercises they recommend and follow all of their protocols afterward.

      Reply
      1. The Other Dawn*

        A former co-worker/friend of mine had her hip replaced maybe 10 years ago. She didn’t follow through with the physical therapy and still had issues with it. She said she learned her lesson with the first one: physical therapy is critical. She had her other one done maybe five years ago and did everything she was supposed to, and that hip is now doing great.

        Reply
    15. Punzentraum*

      I‘ve just turned 50, have had my right hip replaced 3 years ago and am about to have the left one done in a week. Would absolutely recommend doing it as soon as you know you need it.
      I have congenital hyp dysplasia, i.e. my hip sockets are both too shallow, and therefore the cartilage will wear away over time and you are basically guaranteed to need a replacement. With my first hip, I found out rather late that this was the reasons for my pain (I was in pain for years and was at the point where I could barely walk or sit). The hip replacement cleared up all the pain in a flash. For this reason I am now having the second one done as soon as I developed slight problems – not gonna wait until I‘m immobilized again.
      As for the operation itself: I was in hospital for 3 nights and got out when I could prove that I could walk up and down a couple of stairs. All the pain was gone, I was just not particularly mobile at first, especially regarding bending at the hip. Key flashpoints were socks (my husband put them on for me for a couple weeks) and the toilet (got a height adjustment seat to put on our toilet, highly recommend). But I was flying to China for work after week 6, and climbing mountains again after month 3 or 4. Anterior method though! As another commenter mentioned, make sure they use this method as it will mobilize you much sooner. Good luck!

      Reply
      1. The Other Dawn*

        I’m glad to hear from someone with shallow hip sockets. I had no idea until I saw this particular doctor. I’d seen one around January after my back surgeon gave me a few bursa injections with limited success last summer/fall and said it’s time for a hip doctor. I quickly decided the hip guy I went to was not the right guy, though, and moved on to the one I have now and he’s awesome. His PAs are fantastic, too. No one mentioned the hip sockets, though, until this week when I went for the joint injection; however, he likely assumed the previous doctor actually educated me (he didn’t). So yeah. I had no idea about the hip sockets. And looking at the symptoms online, it makes sense and explains why I feel the way I do these last two months.

        Good luck next week!

        Reply
    16. I am a unicorn but not your unicorn*

      My wife (aged 44) just had a hip replacement at the end of April. Since she is relatively young and muscular, she had an anterior approach instead of the posterior (anterior preserves the muscle instead of slicing through it).

      It was done on an outpatient basis under twilight sedation (let that sink in for a minute!) I took her in at 5am and picked her up at 5pm. They had her up and moving on the walker that day. She had her first PT appointment that week. She was driving again in… two weeks? (The surgeon said she could have driven day of if she wanted if she wasn’t on the pain pills and his PA was like, PLEASE STOP TELLING PEOPLE THAT.) She was on an accelerated PT regimen and graduated PT after like, 5 visits. She was back to playing golf within 6 months. You can barely see the surgical scar. She feels GREAT. Everyone we know is like “you’re moving SO MUCH BETTER” and we’re like, uh, that was the point? She literally wishes this had been done years ago, but…

      Things we wish we had known but she still would have done it, because the pre-surgery pain was absurd; this hip had to get replaced (surgeon said this was the worse degeneration he’d seen in someone her again; the cartilage and fluid that should have been in the hip was gone):

      – her lifetime lift limit is 40 pounds; for the first couple months, it was 10 pounds. She couldn’t walk the dog in case he pulled her. She couldn’t pick up more than a gallon of milk. Etc.
      – On road trips she has to get out and stretch every two hours, lest the hip lock up (there’s also a blood clot risk; you’ll need compression socks for flights and long drives for the rest of your life).
      – We can’t let her get cold (this may be a mostly her thing, she’s also got a surgically repaired knee and shoulder). When you’ve got a titanium railroad spike in your hip, cold can hurt).
      – Again, this may be a her thing, but her nerve block worse off after 12 hours; it was supposed to last 96. Luckily they’d already filled her good pain meds, but that was BAD.
      – Toileting was a problem, because getting up from anywhere too low was an issue. Get one of those seat risers. Get grab bars for the toilet too. We still ended up borrowing a bedside commode for a couple weeks (it was an absolute lifesaver, because the walker did not fit into our bathroom. We’d checked it everywhere else but there.
      – Borrow or get a shower chair, they’re not too pricey at medical supply.
      – Don’t forget you can wear shoes (she broke down and got crocs and they’ve been fantastic). I know that sounds dumb, but they sent her home in slipper socks and we were so sleep deprived it took us two days to remember that she could wear shoes.
      – even at her age, she ended up on FMLA for three months. She’s in an academic profession that requires a lot of moving and lifting, and her surgeon didn’t trust her employer to respect her limits (and it’s hard to remember you have a new limitation).
      – If you share a bed with someone, get a body pillow (I recommend one of those pregnancy pillows); it will keep you from rolling around on your freshly repaired hip and keep your person from rolling into you.

      Basically, considering they replaced a major joint on an outpatient basis, it was pretty easy, but there were some quirks. I feel like I’m forgetting some things but I’m happy to answer any questions, since we just did this.

      Reply
      1. The Other Dawn*

        Thanks so much! This is great. And the restrictions afterwards are pretty similar to the lumbar fusion I had last year. I saved my shower chair and have a new toilet riser, so I’m good there. :)

        Reply
    17. Dee H*

      My dad has had ankle, knee and hip replacements. He had the fastest, least painful recovery with the hip surgery and it was probably the most helpful of the three in terms of his daily life.

      Reply
  18. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread

    (Please also take a gander at Jean (Just Jean)‘a spin on the thread to “Name something small for which you are thankful, and another thing for which you hope.”)

    What brought you joy this week? I have 5!

    1. Therapy is helping and my therapist sees improvement and so do I.

    2. New Pokémon game came out!

    3. The depression writers block eased up a bit and I made progress.

    4. I have a start date for my seasonal gig.

    5. Wanted to treat my mom yesterday at our favorite local Italian place, but wound up getting treated myself by I think one of the owners. (Also have leftovers, SCORE!)

    Please share your joys big or small!

    Reply
    1. AGD*

      The one unfortunate dilapidated house down the street was fenced off, then demolished, and the hole has been filled in with dirt. I wonder if they’re adding the lot to the community garden next door. But even if they build a new structure on it, that’s so much better.

      Reply
    2. Garden Pidgeons*

      My new Kindle arrived! I traded in my old one for it, so have been Kindleless for a fortnight, but now it’s here and I can get on with rereading stuff.

      Reply
    3. Dancing Otter*

      I finished a quilt top that I’ve been procrastinating on for several months. (Wish I could attach a picture.) AND I took the quilt I’m making for a Christmas gift to the long arm quilter on Monday. So that’s two.
      I got my booster shot, remembered to flex my arm afterwards, and it isn’t sore. First two ached like nobody’s business, so this is a small joy on top of just, you know, having the added protection.

      Reply
    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I bought some teeny tiny embroidery hoops (about 1″ wide in different shapes) and it’s SO fun making little designs for them. I don’t usually have the patience for super detailed/realistic work but I’m trying it with a mini landscape now since the scale makes it much easier

      Reply
    5. Girasol*

      I had to trim the grape vines for winter. Just for grins made a loop and started twining vine scraps into it. It turns out that it takes zero talent to make a beautiful grapevine wreath. That was fun.

      Reply
    6. WoodswomanWrites*

      In a welcome surprise, my sister offered to sell me her lightly used car at a big discount to replace my aging vehicle that’s getting expensive to maintain,

      Reply
    7. Frankie Bergstein*

      Laura – I like how you called out Jean (Just Jean)’s post too!

      Here are things that brought me joy this week:

      -my doggies! They’re so lovely. Snuggles, pets, personality. One has the strut and confidence of a tiny diva, and the other is a sweet but anxious fluff boy (who is currently snuggled up at my feet snoozing sweetly). I’m so happy. They make me feel so content.

      -fall/winter coziness: chai, friendsgiving, hoodies (just got a bunch from ThredUp – thanks, AAM community, for teaching me how to sift through all of their stuff!)

      :)

      Reply
    8. Voluptuousfire*

      Got myself a pair of Old Navy pajama bottoms since they were half off. I get a new pair every year. I lost about 15 lbs since the summer and I went down a size in them. It feels good!

      I also get my booster on Black Friday. Excited about that.

      Reply
    9. GoryDetails*

      Had a lovely day-trip to the Quincy/Braintree area south of Boston, with a friend who grew up there (many, many decades ago!). We stopped in Milton to visit the truly wondrous Eustis mansion, a late-19th-century home that was beautiful, well-designed, and full of practical comforts, all at once – simply lovely! A drive down the coast, a walk in a tiny coastal park, a lovely meal at an unexpectedly good restaurant (alas, the best clam shacks were closed for the season, but the fallback was very good) – very fine day indeed.

      Reply
      1. the cat's ass*

        awwwww! I grew up in Braintree, and the BIG Braintree-Milton football rivalry was Thanksgiving weekend. Thanks for taking me back!

        Reply
    10. Healthcare Worker*

      I bought new pajamas online. When they arrived I was excited to discover they have pockets. Pockets! Every pair should have them.