weekend open thread – November 4-5, 2023

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: Mrs. Caliban, by Rachel Ingalls. A woman in an unsatisfying marriage develops a much more satisfying relationship with a seven-foot-tall sea monster.

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

{ 1,187 comments… read them below }

  1. Hannah Montana*

    What can I do for a friend with a young kid who is struggling with missing out on things us non-parent friends are doing? My friend Emily has a son who is a year and a half. She is the only one in my close friend group with a kid (a few others plan on having kids at some point but at least half of us, me included, don’t want kids). She’s got a great husband who splits caring for their child 50/50 and they both work full time. Our friend group is really accommodating of doing stuff with the kid, like we all went to a farm for pumpkin picking and a corn maze that was really fun with the kid and I always say their son can come to gatherings and have a spare bedroom where he can nap. We have movie nights frequently at their house after the son has gone to bed in the evening.

    But of course there is stuff that Emily misses out on. She’s hit a spiral recently where she’s missed doing some big things because the son was sick (a date day with her husband, an annual trip our friend group does, a trip out of state to visit her brother). She’s so miserable, saying being a parent is nothing but misery, our society isn’t built for parents, she’s expected to work and parent and do nothing fun for herself. I try to be there for her as much as I can, to listen and let her vent, try to plan things stuff that she can do that the kid can come along or in her limited free time, have even offered to come and clean her house free of charge to help out. When the kid is older (like out of diapers), I’m happy to take their son for an afternoon and let her have a break but that’s still a few years off and they’re limited in who can take care of the kid right now, especially with how frequently he gets sick.

    Is there anything I can do for her? I’ve so often heard of the opposite problem, the one friend without kids trying to figure out how to do things when all of their other friends now have kids, but I don’t know what to do when a majority of our friend group still has the flexibility of a non-kid lifestyle, and my friend with a kid is struggling under all of the restrictions of being a mom.

    1. Washi*

      I have a 1.5 year old and most of my friends have kids. I have two thoughts:
      1. I appreciate when friends still invite me to things even that are not kid friendly, and especially appreciate the kid friendly things! You’re doing a lot just by continuing to be there for her. I’ve always been the organizer in friendships and post-kid am so touched by my friends who have taken the lead on keeping in touch with me.

      2. I hope if I were regularly saying that having a kid is all misery, that my friends would be gently asking about my mental health. It is hard, don’t get me wrong – I am sick for a week every two weeks due to all the daycare illnesses and it can really wear you down – but it’s a far cry from “all misery.” If that’s really how she feels, that is not typical in my experience. Have you had an in depth chat with her about how she’s feeling and if she has thought about therapy?

      1. Hannah Montana*

        She knows she needs to go to therapy but says she doesn’t have the time. She’s seen a therapist regularly for years but didn’t see them as frequently during lockdown and even less so with her kid. I think she said it’s been a month since she last saw her therapist.

        1. Seashell*

          Could she talk to her therapist via Zoom, etc.? That might make scheduling a little easier.

          If possible, she needs to get her husband to handle the childcare for a couple hours each weekend so she can do something for herself – take a walk, read a book, knit a scarf, go to the coffee shop, get a manicure- whatever floats her boat. When my oldest was around that age, my husband and his friend took their kids for swimming lessons every Saturday. I didn’t socialize during that time, but it was a weekly break for me.

        2. Firecat*

          Well the attitude of “I’m too busy to take care of me” is ruinous. As much as possible convince your friend to take care of herself.

          I had to deal with this attitude with my husband and it’s resulted in him completely burning out at the worst possible time. Instead of taking a few breaks here and there and being unavailable for small stretches, he’s now completely unavailable at the worst possible moment when his family needs him the most. He of course feels extremely guilty about this. It’s also hurt his relationship with family members and even our pets because of his behaviors (symptoms of burnout) before he finally flamed out and got help.

          1. JSPA*

            Yeah, that’s like “I have to finish this project so I will just give up on sleeping more than 3 hours a night.” It’s not something that can conceivably work. Nudge to see if she really intellectually believes what she’s saying, or if she understands the logic flaw, but is just too overwhelmed to think past the next kid demand.

            Her boss can’t talk to her about taking a mental health leave, but you have the standing. You can also potentially ask her husband if he’s also this level of overwhelmed, and suggest that he not do the “fair” 50/50 split but the “need to get mental health back on track” 80/20 split, until she makes time to get to therapy again on the regular.

            Pregnancy can also do odd things to depressive symptoms, as well as post-partum depression being something that can linger much longer than people are aware. Per the NIH, “About 5% of women reported persistently high levels of postpartum depression symptoms for three years after giving birth.” That’s a staggeringly high number…and by itself, a reason to broach the subject.

            Finally…OK, sick kids are a misery all around…but changing a diaper is something that a lot of teenagers know how to do, and furthermore, they also make hyper-absorbant diapers that don’t necessarily have to be changed instantly. And a 1.5 year old is largely past the point of exploding out of both ends at high frequency. I’m wondering if your ability to babysit might also be up for re-evaluation, if that’s what it takes to get her to her mental health provider. I mean, even sitting with the kid in the waiting room while she’s having a session (and leaving her to handle the diaper changes when the session is over) might be a workable strategy?

            1. Felis alwayshungryis*

              I got treated for postnatal depression when my kid was 4. We had some very stressful life stuff happen during my pregnancy and the 4th trimester (illness and sudden bereavement, two separate events), and then throw in a pandemic when she was 2 and I just cracked when she was 4. Looking back, I probably should have recognised a few symptoms (maternal gatekeeping, perfectionism, negative self-talk) even pre-pandemic, but I didn’t recognise them as anything other than how things were supposed to be.

        3. Midwest Manager*

          The hardest thing I’ve personally struggled with as a parent of triplets is knowing that something needs to be done for me, but feeling too overwhelmed or busy to bother with taking care of it. Need a filling? It can wait. Haircut? Too much effort. Diet? I’m too tired to think about it. It’s way too easy to neglect yourself with the constant (invisible) pressure to be everything for everyone else around you. I, sadly, developed this habit when my kids were young, and now 10 years later am still bad at taking care of myself. I guess I’ll get to it later…

          Your friend is right, being a parent is HARD. I encourage you to do what you can to help her realize that it’s really OK for her to take an hour a week to do something she needs for herself. It’s not selfish to do that. She’s actually doing herself and her family a favor because by taking care of herself, she’s allowing herself to bring her best self to the rest of the world.

          One thing that comes to mind is you mention her hubs takes on 50/50 with the childcare, which is great! My hubs does too. But who is scheduling the appointments? Doing the grocery shopping/cooking? Keeping after the general household chores? Managing the finances? If these things aren’t ALSO getting split 50/50, I can easily see where your friend is feeling under water. If these other things are also living in her head while working and carrying 50% of the childcare needs, she’s still bearing more than half the entire load.

          There is SO MUCH PRESSURE on women in our society to be the perfect mom, perfect wife, perfect housekeeper, and successful in our careers. We feel like a failure if any of these things slip below our perceptions of what “everyone else expects” and tear ourselves down with guilt. We unwittingly do this to ourselves, and then by example, teach our kids to do the same. It’s OK for the kids to see you fail sometimes. The worst thing you can do for your kids is let them think you’re a perfect human. By modeling what it’s like to fail gracefully, we are teaching them that it’s OK not to be perfect, and how to use failure as an opportunity for growth.

          I hope that your friend can decide to take the time to care for herself, and that you can help her accept that it’s OK to put her own needs first sometimes. She doesn’t have to be everything to everyone all the time.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        I’ve been a parent for 8 years and I still find it pretty isolating. Like, the fact that she has a social life at all makes me feel like she has no right to complain. She hangs out with adults? She has FRIENDS??

        My point is, the only times I’ve said things like “I never get time for myself” and “parenting is miserable” etc… were pretty extreme low points for me. I agree with others who suggest gently checking in about her mental health. It seems like she actually has significantly more of a “village” and personal life than a lot of parents so she must be really struggling.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          +1000. She sounds like she has an incredibly vibrant social life and a friend group that is super inclusive. I really hope she gets some help because I personally feel pretty worried about this situation.

      3. Bruce*

        My late wife had post-partum depression to some degree with both of our kids, especially the first one when she was recovering from a C-section. Not saying that is what is happening, but should be checked out!

      4. Helewise*

        I agree with this. My kids are older now, but I had a really rough go of it when they were little and my mental health wasn’t in a good place for a quite a while and had some pharmaceutical help to get through it. “All misery” is a pretty strong and dramatic statement and really worries me to hear.

    2. FrogForecast*

      That’s so rough! Any chance your friend recently stopped breastfeeding/pumping? The hormonal change during weaning can cause PPD and if this is a sudden change to being miserable, it might be something like that.

      I have an 8 month old, so I’m not yet where your friend is, but something I’ve found really helpful is when my friends seem genuinely interested in listening to me talk about my baby.

      1. Hannah Montana*

        No, she actually didn’t produce enough milk for her son so she couldn’t breastfeed. She pumped but I think that lasted only 6-8 months after her son was born so that was a year ago.

        1. Firecat*

          6-8 months is an amazing amount of times to breastfeed, let alone if your friend was an under supplier!

          You seem to care a lot about your friend so I thought I should point out that saying something like she “only” breastfeed for 6-8 months can be really really hurtful. Breastfeeding is hard, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and being under supplier is especially hard wrenching. Its all the ame work and effort (pumping, sore nipples, endless dishes, not getting sleep as you have to pump every 2-3 hours to keep up your supply, etc. etc.) without the reward of having an exclusively breastfed baby and post pregnancy weight that melts off.

          1. Courageous cat*

            I think this is seriously overthinking it. She’s just answering the question, “only” is a perfectly reasonable word to describe it.

            1. Firecat*

              Nah. 6-8 months of breastfeeding is amazing. Most people wouldn’t say something like, they “only” climbed mount Everest. It’s a huge accomplishment to breastfeed, especially with a low supply. I think it’s fair to point out minimizing language that can be hurtful to her friend.

              1. Celeste*

                But she was answering the question about whether her friend was still breastfeeding. She wasn’t commenting on the amount of effort involved at all. Did she climb Mount Everest ten times? No, just only climbed it once, last spring. It’s a weird thing to attach so much meaning to a single word, especially ignoring the context.

              2. ShinyPenny*

                Firecat, I appreciated you sharing this perspective, and I’ll be passing your info along to others.
                I never had kids, and no one among my close friends did either. But now our nieces/nephews/kids-by-marriage/fairy god-children are having babies, and we all want to be as loving and supportive as we can be, even though we never walked that path ourselves.
                So, thank you for your post. This sounds like one of those landmine topics where someone could be seriously wounded by a thoughtless comment. One of my favorite things about the AAM community is learning about what life is like for people whose lives are different from mine. Thanks for adding to that!

                1. Firecat*

                  You may find it weird, but the reality is that most breastfeeding people will bristle at that language and rightly so.

                  And while it’s possible OP doesn’t use that sort of minimizing language about parenting and breastfeeding in front of her friend, it’s a big enough landmine that I thought it worthwhile to point out. Especially since her friend is clearly struggling already.

                2. Firecat*

                  Sorry Shinny that was supposed to be a reply to Celeste.

                  Yeah if any of them breastfeed, especially if they share that they have to supplement with formula due to undersupply, it’s typically devastating for the breastfeeding parent. If you want a glimpse of that life skim the breastfeeding subreddit. Even just reading the titles gives a good idea of the struggles and triumphs involved with trying to give your baby the best nutrition that only you can give and the heartbreak when you just aren’t able to produce enough.

            2. Sharkbait*

              +1. In the context of answering the question, the word “only” is appropriate and not minimizing.

          2. Hannah Montana*

            She doesn’t talk about her breastfeeding to her because not being able to feed her son was really upsetting for her. Our friend group had to support her when the online mom group she was recommended by her doctor talked about how awful formula feeding was for babies. I don’t know enough about breastfeeding to know how long it lasts for which is the only reason why I said ‘only’ on here to give context; all I know is she didn’t pump for long because of how little she made. Thinking more on it, I think it was actually three months, not six.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah. My son had a low enough birth weight that he wasn’t allowed to lose any of it, meaning that we fed him on donated breast milk at the hospital (a huge thank you to all nursing parents who donate) and formula at home from the get go. My supply never caught up with the demand, and in the end my son weaned himself at 4 months.

              Thankfully our son had a decent pediatrician who said that while breastfeeding would be best for the baby, formula’s certainly good enough and the important thing is that he’s growing and thriving, not what he’s eating. Our son was a very healthy baby and only started getting sick when he went to daycare when he was two years old.

              I certainly felt a lot better both mentally and physically as soon as I no longer had to watch my caffeine intake.

            2. Firecat*

              It really varies but biologically the milk tends to stay there as long as there is demand (pumping and/or suckling) and until menstruation returns. It’s still possible to lactate post menstruation, but most people experience a huge dip in supply around then. Also once baby starts eating solids demand goes down so supply usually dips then too. These events typically occur around the 6 months mark.

              However when people quit breastfeeding is usually dependent on their family support, work accomadations, etc. The average I’ve seen locally is 3 months for folks without lactation issues. I know a few people with undersupply issues and on average they quit breastfeeding around 4 weeks or sooner. Your friend is really a champion for going 3 months dealing with that.

              1. RagingADHD*

                I got my period back at 4 months and breastfed until my baby was 15 months. There is a dip at first, but with good medical advice (like taking calcium and magnesium when your period is due), you can get to the other side and your supply adjusts.

                Breastfeeding is hugely a mental game – letdown reflex responds to stress, supply issues can freak you out, lots of people think their supply is gone when they stop getting engorged, when in fact it’s just more efficient and produces while feeding.

                It is so easy to get psyched out, whether through misinformation, critical or unintentionally hurtful comments, or just your own worries.

                1. Firecat*

                  Absolutely, it’s a mental as well as physical marathon. I give a nod to the mom cows whenever I pour some milk now.

          3. Myrin*

            Goodness gracious, I get what you’re saying but in the context of this thread, that’s such linguistic nitpicking – paraphrased and with subtext “We’re talking about a one-and-a-half year-old, did the mother breastfeed until recently, let’s say up until her child was fourteen months or so?” – “No, only for the first six months, they switched to formula after that”. That’s just how language works.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              This thread is providing a great window into why Friend Mom might be feeling overwhelmed and judged and like she can’t win.

    3. RMNPgirl*

      I don’t have kids but my parents always said that they just made me a part of their lives. If she only has the one kid that is easier to do. Yes, my dad did miss the last part of a movie once because I started crying. But there were a lot of things they were able to do with a kid.
      Also, everything in life is a trade-off. I never want kids and I know I’ll miss out on some amazing things because of that but the same goes for having kids.

    4. RagingADHD*

      She can talk to her PCP about how she’s feeling. Having a toddler is tough, but “All misery” is not a healthy or normal state to remain in.

    5. What do I know?*

      It sounds like she needs some mom friends. Your friend group is doing a great job of trying to include her, but nobody is going to understand like other parents will. Only being friends with the same people she was before baby is probably making her miss her pre-kid life even more.
      The other thing to remember is that this part of parenthood really is only a season of life. Yes, it is a few years away, but the intense needs of toddlerhood will let up as kids get closer to school age. It will not be so all consuming forever.
      But if she’s having trouble finding those moments of joy amidst the struggle, then, yes, therapy needs to be in order.

      1. ghost_cat*

        I harshly learned the lesson that ‘nobody is going to understand like other parents will’, when helping organise a baby shower gift in the workplace and was told that if I was a parent then I would understand what new parents need.

      2. FromCanada*

        Getting to know other parents was so important. Don’t get me wrong, my best friend doesn’t have kids and at our age, never will. She is awesome and amazing – BUT, there are some things she doesn’t fully understand or I had a hard time hearing from her but not another parent. Even when she was telling me I was doing something well – because fair or not, she loves me but she’s not a parent so does she really know?

        Having a community you can ask – is this normal? Is this something I should worry about with my child or is no big deal is so important and really only parents or child care professionals can tell you those answers (and sometimes not the professionals). The first child is the hardest, and that age is just so hard. It gets better but that doesn’t help when you’re in the middle.

        Also, yes to therapy – I had undiagnosed PPD with my first and it was rough! I wasn’t diagnosed until years later.

      3. JR 17*

        I think the same. There is nothing like someone who truly understands what you’re going through, in parenting as in any other major life transition. OP, any chance you could help her find a new moms group, a playgroup, a baby music or gymnastics class, something along those lines?

        1. allathian*

          No, but that’s mainly because society still expects moms to be the primary caretakers of babies and toddlers, and dads get kudos just for going to the playground with their kids. Dads never get the judgment moms do. I hope that’s changing as dads are starting to take more responsibility for caring for their kids.

          I’m in Finland, and a few years ago there was a change in our parental leave legislation, in which a certain part of the leave is assigned to the birthing parent, another part of the leave can be assigned as the parents wish, and the third part is assigned to the non-birthing parent on a “use it or lose it” basis. This has meant that non-birthing parents have started to take out a larger part of parental leave, even if in the vast majority of cases, birthing parents take the majority of leave. The language is intentional and also applies to lesbian couples.

          Gay couples who adopt get an equal share of the leave each, although in practice it’s very hard for gay couples to adopt because surrogacy is illegal here. Some couples do attempt it, but they’re dependent on the goodwill of the surrogate mom, if she changes her mind and wants to keep the baby, they have no recourse because the contract’s unenforceable. The partner who donated sperm can sue for paternal rights, but his partner has no rights at all to the baby.

          1. Firecat*

            It must really vary in the US depending on State, because I see this sentiment of Dad’s getting kudos for going to the park but my spouse always gets stares and glares when he takes kids to the park. I’ve also seen this happen at the zoo and at the Dr’s office.

        2. Firecat*

          There is actually a lot of advice out there for Dads to join SAHD groups and talk with other fathers/parents. Especially Dad’s struggling with PPA or PPD.

          I just recommended my spouse connect with his best friend about his parenting struggles since he had his first kid a few years ago.

          It really is common advice in spaces where it’s safe for men to talk about parenting and struggles. A lot of advice groups are geared towards Moms and recoil at a Dad entering the space though so men have to work a little harder to find this stuff.

    6. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      Not a parent myself, but I agree with those suggesting that she go back to her therapist. I wonder if reminding her of the airplane rule – putting on your own oxygen mask first before taking care of others means she does have to take care of herself first – would help.

    7. EA*

      I’m a mom of two under five. You sound like such amazing friends! I wish I had friends like you all. Unfortunately, I don’t necessarily think you can do much except listen and empathize. I think this is a seasons of life thing that your friend needs to work on accepting (therapy is a good idea). Fun is just going to look different for a while when you have kids in diapers, and the FOMO is real, but you just can’t do everything you did before becoming a parent.

      I have found having a personal hobby apart from husband/kids has made me feel like I have a space to be a “real person” again; in my case it’s a weekly class, and it can be tricky to make the time, but it’s made a big difference in my personal happiness. Also, paying for a house cleaning service (not sure if that’s financially viable for her) and basically outsourcing life/house stuff as much as possible to have more time for myself has helped. Those are more tips for her than for you, though. Oh and having a sick toddler is ROUGH especially post-pandemic, so if your friend group wants to help her, maybe you could send her a few meals as a gesture of support.

    8. Sharkbait*

      An excellent tip I got was that you feel with, not deal with, other people’s problems. It sounds like your friend is going through a lot. You cannot treat her or heal her. You are not a therapist, and even if you were, you are not her therapist. The best thing you can do in this situation is listen and empathize and be a loving friend (which you are already doing).

    9. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      I’m gonna be completely honest, she sounds like she’s not adjusting well to the time suck that is parenting. Some people adjust well, others seem to be suddenly struck that baby’s need your attention after then “goo goo gaga” phase, too. A toddler is beginning to think and express itself out loud. I’ve always paid being a parent is the most ubiquitous experience in the world but only half the people who have kids are ready and in that group half of them aren’t prepared.

      It doesn’t matter how accommodating she is or if she gets mom-friends — the latter idea is terrible, in my opinion, because if her misery is coming from having no “me time” then having a bunch of friends that will remind her that every minute of every day is “toddler’s time” doesn’t seem to be productive.

      Babysitting services from you all so her and hubby can go on a date would be valuable. She wants to feel like a person, a wife, a friend, a “anything that isn’t the baby’s mom” right now. Help ease some of the stress from her mind because it’s concerning to hear that everyday is misery. She is saying the world isn’t built for parents because she has no free time — that has nothing to do with the world, children are just all of your free time. Ask her what she needs and listen carefully to how you can help her fulfill those needs. Babysitting is one way but ultimately she needs to see a professional to reshape how she’s viewing her foray into parenthood.

    10. Ummmm*

      Babysitting is the number one thing she needs! If her friends can’t help with that, there are teenagers (do people still hire teenagers for this? I babysat a lot in high school) and possibly nannies who also babysit parttime. Someone needs to take baby off her hands sometimes, diapers or not.

      1. Firecat*

        Yes this. Also with a toddler the chances are you won’t even need a diaper change if you are sitting for just a meal out or something like that.

    11. 40ish*

      I think an angle that has not been covered yet is that this is partly seasonal. Fall and winter with a toddler is rough because you get sick so often. We had to cancel about 50% of our plans with other families last year because someone, us or our friends, were sick. We just canceled for the 2nd time on a dear friend who we have been trying to meet since September. And 1.5 years is a really tough age since the kid is mobile but not aware of any dangers and has to be supervised so closely. I guess what I am trying to say is that this fall/winter may be one of the toughest phases for her and even in one year, it is going to be easier. As a friend, hanging out with her and the child helps even if it is not full babysitting. Meet up with her, get on the floor with the kid to play and tell her to have a tea on the couch or something. You won‘t have full responsibility that way but she will still be able to have a breather.

      1. Perpetua*

        I agree! And while it certainly may be a possibility that her comments are a sign of a larger struggle (I don’t know if the spiral you mention is just one of the examples and her stating the misery of parenting is constant), it can also be possible that she’s just in the thick of disappointment after a series of things she had to miss out. It can be easy to underestimate the despair that can set in after a kid get sick all the time and it seems like everything is out of your control, and that you truly get no say in whether you get to have some much needed fun or rest as well, but that temporary despair and misery doesn’t have to be indicative of a much bigger problem. At the same time, I do agree with some of the posters above that parenting IS often kind of adjusting to this loss of control.

        You sound like a great friend and it’s lovely to read that. Be there for her feelings, but it’s not your job to fix them, and it’s not the responsibility of your friend group to 100% cater to her current flexibility restrictions (in case you are feeling some guilt about that).

  2. Jackalope*

    Reading thread! Everyone share what you’ve been reading, and give or request recs. All reading welcome!

    I’ve been devouring the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire. It’s a fantasy series about children finding doors to other worlds, and what happens when they come back to our world. I just got the last two books in the series (so far) and am hoping to finish them this weekend.

    1. My Brain is Exploding*

      I’m reading The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek for book club. Two of the main elements of the book are Roosevelt’s Pack Horse Library Project and blue-skinned people of Kentucky (Google that). I find both of those topics interesting. The book… not so much. I can’t seem to care about the main character (although the plight of the poor people there in the 30s is just heart-wrenching) and it was instantly apparent who the love interest would be.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      You might also like her Up and Under series, written under the name A. Deborah Baker. I think there are three so far with a fourth due out next year – they’re about a pair of very different (from each other) kids who meet one morning on the other side of a wall that wasn’t there before and go on an adventure through a series of new worlds.

    3. Amber Rose*

      It’s Christmas Romance Season! My KU sub is full of cozy holiday romances and my wish list is full of more.

      I’m pointedly not reading anything right now though because it’s National Novel Writing Month and I need to write words not read them. :)

      1. Valancy Stirling*

        The best time of the year! I usually start my Christmas reading in mid- to late-November, but I start stockpiling on my holiday romances in August.

        Best of luck with NaNoWriMo!

    4. word nerd*

      Two great reads for me this week:

      The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. I feel like I have to go back and reread The Left Hand of Darkness because I didn’t like it when I read it like 10 years ago, and I think I might appreciate it more this time around.

      Wellness by Nathan Hill. This was a really rambly novel, but I loved the rambles! He takes side trips into why people fall for conspiracy theories, pokes fun at the art world, discusses various psychological studies… One of the main characters works for a company harnessing the placebo effect, and I just wish he had taken it one step furter because there’s been some interesting research recently looking at how the placebo effect can still have some power even when people know it’s a placebo, so there could be potential to harness it in an ethical way. I guess Hill has been compared to Franzen before, but I don’t like Franzen at all, and I find Hill’s characters much more relatable and less dark. I’ll probably have to read Hill’s first book The Nix!

      1. trust me I'm a PhD*

        the dispossessed is my very favorite le guin, it’s wonderful

        and yes, you might enjoy left hand more the second time around –– i didn’t finish the first time, but did the second; w/ a little more experience, it’s wondrous

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          The Left Hand is such a strange but wonderful book. Le Guin’s writing style is so unusual. I’ve never quite been able to get into her other books and I really should; I have a copy of The Dispossessed around here somewhere. (My copy of Left Hand is a first edition hardback I found at a used bookstore! I’ve always been oddly proud of it.)

    5. Teapot Translator*

      I read Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Don’t Eat Me by Colin Cotterill. I’m now reading Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. I opted for mainly short books this week because the previous week, I felt like I was losing my reading-fu.

      1. GoryDetails*

        Cotterill’s “Dr. Siri” books are marvelous!

        I also loved Schumacher’s “Dear Committee Members,” although the follow-on book “The Shakespeare Requirement” didn’t wow me – in part because it wasn’t epistolary-format like the first one.

    6. Pamela Adams*

      I’m on a T. Kingfisher kick. I just reread the Paladin books and I’m now reading What Moves the Dead, her House of Usher atory.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Have you read The Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking? Kingfisher really paid attention to the capabilities of the Muffin Man in that one.

    7. WeavingLibrarian*

      Reading Lady Justice: Women, the Law and the Battle to Save America by Lithwick, The Sugared Game by K. J. Charles, and The Collapsing Empire by Scalzi. Non-fiction, intrigue, and speculative fiction. I am enjoying them all.

    8. PastorJen*

      I’m reading The Favorites by Rosemary Hennigan, which was my November pick for the Aardvark Book Club. It’s a dark academia book, which is one of my literary weaknesses. It’s been good so far!

    9. Mitchell Hundred*

      I just started reading The Beholden by Cassandra Clarke. The description that really piqued my interest was that it was a fantasy novel about a great dark evil power that wanted to stop being the great dark evil.

      I also heard it compared to Jacqueline Carey’s The Sundering duology, which is basically a Paradise Lost-style take on The Lord of the Rings. I like that story a lot, so I decided to give it a shot.

    10. Sitting Pretty*

      I’m about 2/3 of the way through American Breakdown by Jennifer Lunden. It’s part memoir, part deep dive into the history, politics, and economics behind ME/CFS and other chronic illnesses. The author has suffered with chronic fatigue and multiple chemical sensitivity since 1989. She chronicles her own journey while also piecing together the story of Alice James who was similarly ill a century earlier.

      If you’re interested in social histories of women and medicine, and how our health exists in economic and political contexts, you might like it as much as I do! Some parts can be hard to read (I mean, capitalism sucks). But it’s still very compelling.

    11. Euphony*

      I’ve just bought C H Wilkins new sequel History is a Haunted House, but I’m re-reading their first book Cities on Fire first to get myself immersed back in. If you like dark superhero fiction I’d highly recommend it – amazing world building, especially for a debut novel.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Ohhh, I asked for that and her Iliad for my birthday! I’m on a real Ancient Greece kick lately.

        1. EdgarAllenCat*

          I’m on our library’s waiting list for The Iliad. I somehow added an audiobook of The Iliad to my iphone music collection and listen to Dan Stevens narrate random parts for ~5 minutes at time.

          1. Bruce*

            Just finished The Odyssey last night. The list of names at the end is helpful, I was briefly confused between Melaneus and Menelaus :-)

        2. MinnieBeebe*

          If you haven’t already read them, I’ll recommend Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles and Circe. They’re both excellent!

    12. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      Finished up Jennifer Egan’s *Candy House*, which I liked even better than *A Visit from the Goon Squad*.

      Starting Michael Harriot’s *Black AF History* — a history of the US that de-centers whiteness. I’ve enjoyed reading Michael Harriot’s work since I first saw it on the Root, and his book has enough humor that I’ve already laughed out loud a couple of times, even though I’ve just started it.

      1. Atheist Nun*

        I look forward to your review of Michael Harriot’s book. I liked his writing for The Root.

        1. Bruce*

          I just read the graphic novel version of Stamped From the Beginning by Kendi, going to recommend it to my son who teaches HS literature (he is always looking for books to pass along to his students, not just “literature” books)… The graphic novel format is very readable and has a lot of sarcastic humor…

        1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

          Oh, I hope you like it! He weaves the history with his own personal history, so just a heads up on that. I like that, but it might not be what everyone expects.

    13. Free Meerkats*

      Seanan is a wonderful person (she’s local to me and we’ve spent some time together) and possibly more prolific than Terry Pratchett was. I highly recommend the October Daye series when you’ve wrapped up Wayward Children.

      I just finished listening to The Scar by China Miéville, second book in the Bas-Lag series. I have the third one cued up in Audible as I start about a 3500 mile drive over 2 weeks Sunday. The series is in a world where both magic (Thaumaturgy) and steampunk technology work. The Scar is less dark than Perdido Street Station with only one character carrying over. I’m looking forward to Iron Council, no idea if any characters are in it from the previous ones.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m delighted to hear she’s as lovely as her writing makes her seem. Beyond the stories she’s one of the people I have enjoyed on the website formerly known as Twitter.

    14. goddessoftransitory*

      In the middle of Heroes, the second volume in Stephen Fry’s three book series (Mythos, Heroes, and Troy.) I’m just loving it; he meticulously researches everything but presents the stories in fun, exciting way while tracking the crazy family trees of everyone.

      His footnotes are especially funny: after quoting a lovely passage about a beautiful queen he notes “no one has ever said anything half so wonderful about me.”

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I love that series in audiobook – usually I bounce off audiobooks real bad and it just goes in one ear and out the other, but Stephen Fry narrates them himself and his writing style being so conversational means it’s like he’s just kinda sitting there on the other couch talking to me about the mythology and it’s much easier to pay attention than usual.

        1. Nervous Nellie*

          I love Stephen Fry! His voice is like a hug – so witty and animated and warm. His book Making History was a unputdown-able romp that imagined someone developed a time machine and went back in time to prevent the conception of Adolf Hitler. The results turned out to be a big surprise. I would love to hear him read his own audiobook of this one!

      2. GoryDetails*

        Oh, yes, Stephen Fry! I’ve listened to “Mythos” and really enjoyed it – and Fry’s prose is almost as much fun as listening to him read it.

        For more fun-takes-on-Greek-mythology, I’ve enjoyed George O’Connor’s “Olympians” series of graphic novels, in which each volume focuses on a particular member of the pantheon and delves into their origins, relationships, and most entertaining anecdotes. (The family tree at the front of each book is impressive and a bit scary!) The “Hades” book is my favorite, but they’re all really good.

        And for more Stephen Fry, I enjoyed his novel “The Hippopotamus,” and I ADORE his book on poetry, “The Ode Less Travelled” – he encourages the reader to write their own poems in whichever format and style he’s talking about, and includes some whimsical examples of his own.

    15. BlueMeeple*

      I read The Autobiography of Benjamin Sisko, which is brilliant! Lots of details from DS9, and some new ones, and a very clever twist at the end. Highly recommended!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        There’s a bunch of those about different Star Trek characters and I’ve loved every one that I’ve read. (But I haven’t seen the Sisko one yet, so must find!)

      2. Donkey Hotey*

        Ooooo! I hadn’t heard about this until now. Thank you! (I just wish I could go back in time and have Avery Brooks sign this when I met him.)

    16. Nervous Nellie*

      This week I’m still working through Empire of Things (the history of shopping), and am also reading The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams. It’s dazzling. A modern day lexicographer is given the task of rooting out fake entries (known as ‘mountweazels’) placed in an 19th century dictionary before it is digitized. She gets to know, understand and sympathize with the original lexicographer, but then also must deal with threatening, anonymous calls about her work. It is lively and smart and probably the most enjoyable book I have read this year. Hugely, highly recommended.

    17. GoryDetails*

      Love the “Wayward Children” books! I have “Lost in the Moment and Found” in progress now; gotta say its abusive-family setup is so horrifying that I really appreciated the author’s trigger warning up front, with its note that she gets away in time.

      1. Jackalope*

        I just finished that one tonight and am trying to come to terms with the fact that I’ll now have to wait two and a half months to read the next book (due out Jan 24). I’ve just inhaled this series. I find it hard to put into words why I’ve loved it so much, but I really have.

    18. GoryDetails*

      “What Kind of Mother” by Clay McLeod Chapman, a novel about a woman who’s working as a palm reader while coping with the fact that her late-teen daughter, whom she’d reared as a single mother, has opted to stay with her biological father. When she meets a local man whom she’d known in her youth, and finds that he’s still tormented by the disappearance of his 8-month-old child years before (and the subsequent suicide of his wife), she gets caught up in his ongoing search for his son. Things… get weird. Very, very weird, in a what’s-reality/body-horror way – overall I liked it, but it’s quite disturbing.

      “This Is Going To Hurt” by Adam Kay, about the tribulations of a junior doctor in the UK. It’s both gritty and funny, well worth reading. (It’s the inspiration for a mini-series.)

    19. Flames on the Side of My Face*

      I’m about 100 pages into The Overstory by Richard Powers and can’t wait to see where it goes

    20. PhyllisB*

      Just finished How Can I Help You? by Laura Sims. Seriously creepy. You’ll never look at librarians or nurses the same!!

    21. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, by Sangu Mandanna

      Charming and hopeful and it felt new. It’s a good restorative read for a rough year.

    22. Valancy Stirling*

      I finished Grimoire Girl by Hilarie Burton Morgan and loved it. I’m now reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie.

    23. Astoria*

      Just finished Convenience Store Woman, which I believe I discovered via a previous weekend Reading Thread. New kind of novel for me, and I enjoyed it. Just started another book by Sayaka Murata, Earthlings.

    24. Amory Blaine*

      Halfway through Babel by R. F. Kuang and I absolutely love it. It’s a fantasy set in an alternate historical Oxford. The details about languages, colonialism, and politics are amazing. Someone recommended it on here a while back (I think I was on the library waitlist for 3 months!)— thanks to whoever it was!!

      1. carcinization*

        I didn’t recommend it, but I also heard about it here, and recently received it as a gift, so I’m looking forward to reading it!

    25. Excel Mom*

      Midlife Mischief by Jodi Solovy is a debut novel that was just released. It’s in the same vein as Nora Goes Off Script if you liked that one with a slightly older protagonist who is trying to figure out her way now that she and her husband are empty nesters.
      An enjoyable read!

    26. SarahKay*

      I’m reading The Long List Anthology (2nd vol) which is short stories from the Hugo awards nomination list. I just finished “So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer which is written as a cooking / baking blog set during the pandemic. I thought it was a little odd that in the story it’s bird flu that’s going round rather than covid, but thought perhaps the author wanted to make it less time-specific. It references social distancing, shelter in place, conspiracy theories on the web, the whole thing.
      I really enjoyed it so went off to see what else she’d written and found an article by her about the story. Article was written in 2020; second sentence says ‘I wrote “So Much Cooking” in 2015’!
      Well, so now I know why it was bird flu and not covid. Also, good grief, that has to be one of the most prescient stories I’ve ever read. And the discovery that it was written in 2015 feels like one of the most impressive plot twist ever.
      Anyway, excellent story, looking forward to reading more from her, and also enjoying the other stories in the anthology.

    27. Jenny F Scientist*

      Just read The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch and enjoyed it a surprisingly large amount.

    28. Bluebell*

      Enjoyed Goodbye Earl by Leesa Cross Smith. Tried to read her Half Blown Rose and couldn’t get through it, but this was good. Also zipped through Black Sheep by Rachel Harrison.

    29. Elizabeth West*

      Finally got around to reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I’ve had it on Kindle for ages but hadn’t read it. Oh, it’s so good.

      Also finally got around to Stephen King’s If It Bleeds. I wanted to read “The Life of Chuck” because they’re going to make a film of it with Tom Hiddleston. Also good. :)

    30. Shorty Spice*

      I loved the first book in the series and thank you for the reminder to seek out the others!

      I’m halfway through City Of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I’m liking it so far.

      I finally got around to reading Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree after seeing it recommended so many times and it’s lovely. Definitely a cozy fantasy read. I also recently read and enjoyed The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer and The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer.

    31. JubJubTheIguana*

      I’m halfway through reading a big novel called The Overstory which is all about seven different people whose lives become somewhat intertwined via their love of or connection to trees. The jacket says it won the Pulitzer. I don’t think it’s the best novel I’ve ever read, but a lot of the writing that’s actually about trees and the natural works is very beautiful and moving. I love the idea of a novel about trees, but the parts about the human characters are perhaps not quite so strong.

    32. Falling Diphthong*

      I read Ella Minnow Pea, a biting satire built around the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” It was great; highly recommend.

      I was…. comforted? to see that it was published more than 20 years ago. A reminder that corruption, ridiculous interpretation of alleged signs, etc, is not a new thing.

      1. word nerd*

        I enjoyed it not too long ago too! Although it made my brain hurt when I tried to imagine myself in a teacher’s shoes and trying to avoid ever saying certain letters. :0

    33. virago*

      “Night of the Living Rez,” by Morgan Talty.

      A collection of 12 linked short stories about two young men — quiet, passive David (“Dee”) and his brash buddy Fellis — growing up on the Penobscot Nation reservation in Maine, it ripped my heart out and made me laugh in equal measure. Strong women characters here, too, including Fellis’ aunt and Dee’s mom. Not surprising considering the book’s dedication: “For Mom (1959-2021). And for all the women who raised me.”

      If you like “Rez,” Talty has a novel coming out in 2024: “Fire, Exit.”

      1. virago*

        Oh, and by “laugh,” I mean “snort helplessly with laughter.”

        Situations such as missing the bus to the methadone clinic, then passing out drunk in the snow and having to have your BFF cut your (long, shiny) hair to free you might not seem what is usually defined as funny, but I defy anyone not to see the rueful, deadpan wit when Dee tells Fellis, “I never thought I’d scalp a fellow tribal member.”

    34. Imtheone*

      Thanks to everyone who shared about books! I’m in need of new things to read and got a lot of good suggestions here!

      For one of my students who is into the history of WW II, I just read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Very sad in the end, but good. (The book is pitched to older elementary school to middle school readers.)

      I recently finished Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Malloy. The main character is an elderly woman who remakes her life after losing her interesting, but very intense husband. There is a second chapter in life for this character, and maybe a third one as well.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        Admittedly I’ve only ever seen the movie based on the book but I had a lot of issues with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, specifically the “very sad” ending – it’s sad when it happens to the son of a Nazi but not the Jews, because it’s expected? The whole scenario was also extremely far-fetched (a Jewish boy of that age surviving in a camp that long rather than being killed right away). Not a fan.

    35. Ali + Nino*

      For all our non-fiction readers: I just finished The Con Queen of Hollywood by Scott Johnson. It is a mind-boggling, fascinating and fast read. Definitely recommend but be warned, it is upsetting/depressing.

  3. Jackalope*

    Gaming thread! Share what you’ve been playing and give or request recs. As always, all games are welcome, not just video games.

    I just started my D&D campaign back up – we’ve been playing another campaign for awhile. I was super excited since I’ve been planning this bit for awhile, and it went mostly as I’d hoped. I think my players had fun too.

    1. Jay*

      Just finished the Haus DLC for Dead Island II. Creepy, disturbing, deeply NSFW, often hilarious, and over all, great Spooky Season fun!

    2. My Brain is Exploding*

      Friends taught us to play a fun card game called Tic (or Tick?). we played it with 6 people and could still have a conversation. Some games require too much conversation for that.

    3. Amber Rose*

      I’m starting a new character in Final Fantasy 14 (the critically acclaimed MMO…) and playing for 24 hours for charity tomorrow.

    4. Euphony*

      Whilst waiting for the next sequels to Subnautica, Horizon and Stray (not to mention the Stray film being made) amd the next Tomb Raider reboot, I thought I’d give the Assassins Creed franchise a try. Currently about 8 hours into Origins and I’m really enjoying it. And the cats are very cute

    5. Middle Aged Lady*

      I love word games and recently started playing the NYT connections game: you are given 16 word and have to put them into four groups based in their similarities. You get four wring answers before you are ‘out’ and have the answers revealed. There is a new one each day.
      Also, Word Wipe, a free game I play on the AARP site, but is available elsewhere. You are given a grid of letters and two minutes to find as many words as possible.

      1. JustForThis*

        Thank you for pointing me there! This is a really fun game, and I’ve promptly looked for and found the unlimited version…

    6. SparklingBlue*

      Looking forward to the Super Mario RPG remake this month–played it some years ago and liked it, so am interested in the remake.

    7. Arts Akimbo*

      Per usual, my spouse and I are still playing our Vampire: the Masquerade 2e campaign that we’ve been playing since the early 90s. Also per usual, my character is about to do something really foolish.

      There’s this Thaumaturgical ritual holding an absolutely ancient Malkavian prisoner and channeling his Obfuscate ability to keep this Sabbat safehouse hidden. She and fellow Archons are going to attempt to dismantle the ritual and free him, and in the process, render that Sabbat house visible to the Prince’s people. But of course, the imprisoned Malkavian might be super angry and frenzied after his long confinement. I really hope our characters don’t get eaten by an angry Elder!

    8. Free Meerkats*

      Still playing Hardcore World of Warcraft Classic. Today, through sheer stupidity, my level 24 Troll hunter fell to her death in the Undercity lift.

    9. Loopy*

      Am just venturing into D &D as a newbie myself this week and am wildly excited. A group of us who have all mostly never played are starting a campaign. Since none of us have played we don’t have an experienced DM and I offered to DM, so I’ve basically been binging all things D&D. But I haven’t been as disciplined about learning the rules in favor of watching critical role and the animated series based on their first campaign.

      We start character creation tomorrow!!!

      1. Lilith*

        I started playing with a regular RPG group last year, and got into it so much more than I expected (I’m only now just getting to grip with the rules though :) ) – I hope you all enjoy!

      2. Jackalope*

        Honestly, Critical Role might ce more helpful anyway. I personally have found that it’s much easier to learn a game by playing with someone who already knows it, and if that’s not an option then watching people who know it is the next best thing. Matt is a really good DM and he’s got both good hard skills (knowing the rules well) and soft skills (knowing how to keep his players going, finding good hooks to keep them interested, etc.), so he’s a good person to learn from. Obviously you still need to read bits of the Players’ Handbook, and there will still be stuff you look up on the regular, but watching him can help you figure out things like “What’s an insight check?”

    10. elvie*

      Been playing Devil may cry 5 for the past couple weeks (yes I’m late). It’s my first time playing this type of game and I have no idea what I’m doing but most of the time I just press all the buttons and cool stuff happens :)

    11. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      Trying to finish Judgment before LAD: Gaiden drops. Also trying to wrap my brain around shogi (lishogi dot org has been a huge help) for related reasons, lol

  4. sarah the third*

    Daylight Savings ends this weekend and I am trying to look forward to it. A couple years ago Alison wrote something about how she loves it when the clocks go back an hour because it’s a sign that fall and winter are coming and she finds it cozy and since then I have tried to make that my perspective too. Last year it kind of worked and I didn’t dread it like I used to. Also we’re starting to get into the holiday season which means AAM updates season, which I love so much every year! AAM is so much fun the whole month of December.

    What are you looking forward to this fall/winter and what are you doing to make your life cozy?

    1. Aphrodite*

      I love, love, love when it gets darker earlier in the evening and lighter earlier in the morning. Also, the cold, rain, fog just makes me sing! I love swimming in our HOA’s pool in the darker evening and watching the stars as I float around. I love blankets on the bed and find it amusing rather than frustrating when it gets to be so hard to turn over under 10 heavy blankets.

      I love sipping hot milk, one of my favorite beverages. I enjoy popcorn which I do not like when the weather is hot or even warm. The cat snuggle very closely with me in bed–it helps that they find me a reliable source of heat when it’s cold. I love sitting outside on my plant-filled porch wrapped in a heavy wool blanket. I love wearing oversized sweatshirts in the evening rather than tee shirts. Some or maybe many suffer from winter blahs; I suffer from warm weather ones and just kind of die.

      And I love the holidays. While my decorations are more limited than they used to be they are also elegant rather than showy. It’s almost the only time of the year I listen to music. I read more. I get out more to see all the free and low-cost community holiday events like the downtown tree lighting, the spectacular city decorations, theatre productions, driving around to look at lights, and so much more. If it’s really cold so much the better.

      I am also working on making January and February special too. So many seem to feel that these two months are awful. True, the big holiday (for those of us who celebrate it) is gone but the magical weather is still there. Hopefully. Predictions are for a very wet winter and I cannot be more excited as walks hunched under an umbrella in a cold rain are incredible! I plan to use my porch more with floating candles to keep me company. And I’ll have one close friend in particular over–she lives very close by–for my (self-admittedly) famous grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup dinners. There’s just so much to do and enjoy in winter!

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        My cats are so much more snugly when it’s cold! With me and with each other. Summer time they will sleep on my bed a food apart, winter they are curled up together into one cozy ball.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Peanut spends all his time wedged into my husband’s lap or in front of the heater!

      2. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

        Wow, you are living your best fall and winter life! That is impressive! : )

      3. English Rose*

        I agree, this season makes my heart sing.

        Getting out the cozy knits both for the body and the bed. I have different throws for each season which I put on the chairs and sofa. That mental switch to the interior world rather than outside. The principles of hygge. I switch to my winter perfume from 1 November (L’heure Bleue by Gerlain) and that scent memory is just gorgeous.

        I love this idea of making January and February special as well, going to think on that.

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Lights! Everyone puts up lights right when it starts getting more dark, and so I’m reminded that things are beautiful when it’s darkest. Right after Christmas is when the days start getting longer again, which coincides with people taking their lights down, so it eases that transition for me (mentally).

      I also find that decluttering helps me a lot. How do I want my space to look? What do I really want in this exact drawer? Not what I think I should have or feel obligated about. It makes it so that the space I go back into actually is cozy and welcoming.

      Lots of green plants for me. I have a sunroom and it’s full of all the pots I bring in for the winter. I use a space heater and make that space my office. It’s a game changer.

      Going outside frequently. Bundling up and walking after dinner even. When I do this I think about what someone told me – they said they prefer longer nights because the darkness brings a cloak against the scrutiny of the day, and they felt they could rest.

      Doing meditations about how fall is about letting go of what you don’t need, and winter is about going inside and deeply nourishing yourself, so that when you come out in the spring you have new things to produce and are ready to rejoice differently.

    3. Ranon*

      Twinkle lights are up and it’s cold enough to break out the extra cozy throw blankets. I love fall and winter, though, I’m planning my Thanksgiving meal and making sure my kiddo hasn’t outgrown his snowshoes and putting the garden to bed. We’ve had our first snow but it’s melted now so I’m just getting into our winter groove and planning a late fall hike or two.

    4. Snell*

      The Daylight Saving shifts always bring me back to when I worked the night shift. In the spring, I’d get a blessedly short shift (-1 hr) but in the fall, I’d have to stay up an hour longer than usual. At least then, I’d have more than enough time to complete my work (it was the kind of job where if I finished work, there truly was nothing left but to keep an eye on things and wait to hand things off to the morning peeps) and sneak a few minutes of dozing.

      I love the general coziness that you can really sink into this time of year. One thing I miss is this local-ish chocolate company used to do a seasonal pop-up in my area serving different kinds of hot chocolate drinks. I’m considering making the ~1hr drive to their permanent cafe location and having a nice sit-for-a-while.

      Honestly looking forward to the least active times and places this time of year, by which I mean the dead week between Christmas and New Year. Quite a few people are still out and about because so many people have the time off so it’s not creepily empty, but there isn’t this urgent crush of activity everywhere. I just noticed how pleasant I found the atmosphere in those circumstances one year, and now I try to make a point to catch that experience every year. It makes for a very lovely stroll down the street/through a park/around a shopping mall with a hot drink in hand.

    5. Sloanicota*

      I used to dread winter when I lived in a miserably cold state, and now that I live in a relatively mild state it’s been a slow process of recovery (actually the summers are kind of awful here, but the blue sky and sunshine still makes me cheerful) – but the big difference for me is buying a big, shaggy haired dog. He hates summer and loves the cooler weather, so suddenly I have a new appreciation for it because it makes him so frisky and joyful. He’s a good boy.

      1. Snell*

        One of my favorite seasonal signifiers is when you turn on the heater and all the dogs quickly huddle around the vent :D

        1. Pippa K*

          :-) My husband was once working at his desk at home, with the thermostat set appropriately, and gradually realized “wow, it’s chilly in here. And it weirdly smells of dog for some reason…” Turned around and there was a spaniel seated comfortably on the floor heating register, wagging cheerfully at him.

        2. Clisby*

          Or you start to wonder whether there’s a problem with the HVAC and then you look over and see that the cat is sleeping *right on top* of the vent.

    6. beep beep*

      It’s the season of hot drinks! I’ve never mulled my own hot apple cider before, but I’m considering it. In the meantime, I’ll put up with packets :)

      Oh, and hot tip: if you’re not allergic and don’t mind a little mess, spoon a dollop or two of peanut butter into your hot chocolate. It’ll melt and taste delicious, even if it leaves some grit on the bottom of your mug.

      That, and I get to pull out my warm fuzzy pajamas and socks, which I practically live in during winter. No one can see them at work if you’re wearing professional boots ;)

      1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

        If peanuts are a problem for anyone, I’ll bet you can get the same peanut-butter effect with some sunflower-seed butter or peanut-free Wowbutter (which is soy nut butter).

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Hot chocolate makes winter worthwhile for me!
        I invested in a duvet coat last winter and there’s definitely something to be said for trudging through snow or cold weather while wearing all of your warmest clothes.

      3. carcinization*

        We actually had a cold Halloween this year, so made hot apple cider on the stove sans packet. We did have to substitute some elderberry syrup from Ikea (it’s much more sour than sweet) as we didn’t have an orange, but that seemed to work out well.

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      Wearing sweaters and boots. Fall colors. Putting up lights and candles and Christmas decor (after Thanksgiving, lol). Baking. Cocoa with Bailey’s in it.

    8. Seashell*

      I was thinking of opening up the backyard fire pit to roast marshmallows. Our weather seems to have gone from rainy fall to a little too brisk, but maybe it will level off a bit.

      I used to enjoy the clocks falling back when I was in college. It usually fell on or around my birthday, and if we were out at the bars past midnight, as we usually were, it was one extra hour of staying out. Now, if I’m awake past midnight, it’s due to insomnia and I’m on my couch.

    9. Girasol*

      I’m enjoying watching the yard work wind down. I love gardening but it’s been such a busy summer and I’m ready for a break. There’s one more fruit tree to trim and I’m done. I’m getting out the lap blankets and woolly socks and candles and getting ready for reading and movies and maybe a little writing, and tea and cocoa. Also cool dark nights cocooned in the thick comforter with an audiobook.

    10. Middle Aged Lady*

      The end of the dry season and the coming of cold weather means fires in the backyard, crunching through leaves, soups and stews, sweaters and scarves. Curling up with a book and a hot drink, pizza and board game nights with friends.

    11. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      I enjoy foggy and misty or spritzing temperate fall nights or nights with enough wind to be refreshing but not enough to be cold.

      After the new year, I’m looking forward to British shows’ new seasons — can’t wait for *All Creatures Great and Small* and *Death in Paradise* to start up again. Watching all of *Death in Paradise* got me through a particularly hairy winter of exile from my apartment last year.

    12. goddessoftransitory*

      I want to love it because it theoretically means an extra hour of sleep, but in practical terms it means Peanut going nuts for an hour because it’s breakfast time (but not) for a week until he resets his little tummy.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I get 180 pounds of that too. “Mama, you keep sayin breakfast isn’t til ate but we can’t ate til you give us our breakfast!”

    13. The OG Sleepless*

      I’m taking some PTO days at Christmas for the first time in my 30 year working life. My line of work gets very busy and difficult at the holidays and I’ve eventually started to hate Christmas. I’m hoping that having some downtime during that time like a normal person will help.

    14. Manders*

      This year I’ve made a little reading nook in my primary bedroom. I have a small reclining chair, an electric throw blanket, and I just bought a lamp for behind the chair. Now I just need to purchase a little side table for my beverage to sit on and I’ll be set! I envision a lot of cold nights under that throw blanket.

      Also I purchased a sherpa blanket at Target recently, and my cats have decided it’s better to sleep on that than cuddling with me at night, so now I’m getting much better sleep and the kitties are nice and warm!

      1. RMNPgirl*

        My cat is part Maine Coon so has a very thick undercoat. Now that it’s getting colder, she’s finally sleeping with me which is what I wanted all along (I just got her last spring).
        Funny how we had the opposite happen and are both happy with that!

    15. WestsideStory*

      Getting into shape again for ski season. While I hate hate hate the cold weather and dark days, I find winter much more bearable after taking skiing lessons (XC) and ice skating lessons. If you’ve never done a winter sport, perhaps try it?

      1. carcinization*

        Winter sports where I live would be something like… barbecuing outside because in summer it’s too hot to do that? Some places don’t have snow or ice, or don’t have them for long enough for there to be an associated sport….

        1. Janne*

          But running outside is finally comfortable, while in summer it was often scorching except maybe if I went way too early in the morning or way too late in the evening. I seem fitter but the only thing that changed was the temperature around me. Nice ;)

    16. Can't Sit Still*

      I love the change back to standard time The last month before the time change is excruciating for me, but once the time changes, I have so much more energy again. It’s one of the reasons I love fall – I’m less enamored of winter’s short days, though.

      I’m looking forward to hot cocoa, soups and chilis once it finally cools off. I like snuggling under a cozy blanket with a book, the cats and a cup of tea.

      I have a luscious cashmere sweater that’s now oversized due to weight loss and it’s so nice to just toss it on and be cozy in the mornings. It’s basically a cashmere sweatshirt at this point, which feels decadent.

    17. Donkey Hotey*

      Can I throw in a recommendation for Katherine May’s book “Wintering”?
      It’s a whole deep dive into working with the season: canning/preserving, coziness, polar bear plunges, church services (including Stonehenge on the solstice), sauna culture. I thought it was fascinating.

    18. Unkempt Flatware*

      I’m in the part of the country that doesn’t change our clocks so I get happy when I go back to being in the same time zone as my family back home and I no longer need to think about what time it is where.

    19. Flames on the Side of My Face*

      I love this question! It gets very dark and wet here in the fall and winter, so I spend October making a stack of good books to read, organizing the puzzle/game closet and buying a few additions, checking the pantry is stocked for spontaneous baking, and doing some organizing so I’m shut in a cozy house instead of a messy one.

    20. don'tbeadork*

      I hate Daylight Saving with a white hot passion and am always grateful when it finally ends. It very rarely gets super chilly where I’m located, so I love having the grayer days to help justify drinking more hot tea and such.

    21. There You Are*

      Having been born, mostly raised, and now residing in Texas, I look forward to winter so much that it’s palpable.

      I own way more fuzzy, fluffy blankets, flannel shirts, “snow” boots, hoodies, coats, scarves, gloves, and ear muffs than anyone in my geographic area has a right to. I live all of Spring, Summer, and Fall in the same small rotation of shorts, tank tops, and sandals but when the weather FINALLY cools off for a month or three, I will change clothes and layers several times a day just so I get a chance to put all of my cold-weather wear to use.

      Other things I love:

      Hot tea all day long, instead of just a small mug first thing in the morning to help clear out my sinuses.

      Sitting outside on my back porch and *not* getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.

      Cleaning litter boxes or doing other minor household chores and *not* ending up a sweaty mess.

      No boob sweat. No shin sweat.

      Doing yard work without sweating.

      Walking across the grocery store / shopping center parking lot without sweating.

      Being able to turn off the soaker hoses that surround my home’s foundation, thus saving me hundreds of dollars a month.

      Not having to pack my frozen food in insulated containers for the 10-minute drive home from the store.

      Being able to sit in my car with the windows rolled down and the engine off, and not melting and/or having trouble breathing because of the brutal heat.

      Standing in my front yard, chatting for extended periods of time with my neighbors, and not having to worry about mosquitoes, sweating, or heat exhaustion / heat stroke.

      Getting a break from mowing my lawn and doing other trim-back-all-the-growing-things chores every single weekend.

      Getting actual cold water from my tap. No lie, I don’t even turn on the hot water to take a shower in the summer here; the water is *that* warm.

      Not having to turn on the window A/C unit in the bathroom for the 20 minutes it takes for me to put on makeup and style my hair. Trying to apply foundation, powder, liquid eyeliner, and mascara when sweat is streaming down your face is not fun.

      Basically, I am just looking forward to having the outdoor furnace turned off for a wee bit. Every single year I am saying, “I am SO TIRED of being hot all the time!” by mid-June. And the heat doesn’t let up until right about now.

      1. Clisby*

        Boy, are you right, and I’m sure a lot of Texas is worse than coastal SC, where I live. June through September is awful. The rest of the year is really nice. One thing I like about winter here is that occasionally, even in Charleston, we get enough snow to stick. Unlike when I lived in Ohio, for many people snow isn’t an inconvenience – it’s magical, like stars fell out of the sky and stayed on the ground. And it doesn’t last long.

        1. There You Are*

          Oh, I absolutely love your description of snow in the south! Yes, it’s exactly like stars falling out of the sky and staying on the ground.

          During Snowmaggedon in Feb 2021, when Texas’ electric grid damned-near collapsed entirely, I loved going out into my backyard at night and relishing in the pristine, crystalline, white landscape. Everything was coated in sugar that sparkled and all sounds were dampened to the point of it being a sacred kind of quiet, where you didn’t want to make any noise at all, lest you break the spell.

      2. JubJubTheIguana*

        As someone who has never lived in a country that gets hot weather, this is very evocatively written.

    22. anomalous flamingo*

      I live in/on the edge of a temperate rainforest. We have two seasons: dry, which lasts 3 months, and rainy, which can last up to 8 months. The remaining time is a mix. When summer (dry) season hits, everyone here spends as much time outside as possible. I like winter/rainy season because I don’t feel guilty spending time inside- watch movies, knit, do a hobby that isn’t an outdoor sport. In the summer it’s too warm for having the oven on for long, so I look forward to bread-baking and other baking in the winter. At the end of summer, everyone I know is a bit antsy to try to be inside and do some baking. I’ve knit as much in the last two weeks as I did in the previous 4 months.

    23. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I love getting out the down comforter. Even if it IS older than they say comforters last— regularly changing the duvet cover and annually springing for a commercial front-load laundering has kept it going strong.

    24. Reluctant Mezzo*

      I’m in the middle of NaNoWriMo. It’s a Regency, and the heroine is just a little upset that her (former) fiance isn’t more jealous about her moving on…

    25. Elizabeth West*

      I have no idea what winter will be like here in Boston! Fall so far has been nice, except I can’t get out and about like I wanted to because of my stupid knee (I’m having surgery this week). I’m sad I can’t go leaf peeping so I’m trying to peep on my commute, lol. We’ve had so much rain that the leaves are kind of meh.

      What I like best about fall is walking through dry leaves — I do this every time, just to hear the sound it makes. :) I also get to wear scarves again! Around January and February, I get super sick of wearing a coat, but fortunately, it’s close enough to spring that I can grin and bear it until the weather warms up.

      1. JubJubTheIguana*

        I hope you have a wonderful first winter in Boston, Elizabeth. It’s so extremely cool that you made it. Congrats, and hope your surgery goes well. (I’d say break a leg, but…)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Bahaha! Thank you!
          I hope so too. They’re saying El Nino means it will be mild but I hope we get a bit of snow. I’ve got boots and my coat and a little shovel for my car and Yaktrax shoe cleats and I think I’m ready.

    26. JubJubTheIguana*

      Mainly lots of Christmas stuff. London is very festive with lots of beautiful lights and Christmas displays and Christmas markets, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of the traditional Christmas theatre and ballet/opera events. Seeing the tree in Trafalgar Square. I don’t know if I’m actually going to do those things, because in reality I’ll probably be too tired and wind up watching Riverdale on Netflix with a cheese toastie every night, but it’s nice to pretend or imagine that you’ll throw yourself into all the winter/festive delights.

    27. allathian*

      I hate the ending of DST, because the evenings get dark so early, and we’re far enough north that it doesn’t make much of a difference in the morning. Thankfully I still mostly WFH, so I get to go outside on my lunch break. My SAD has been a lot better since 2020. My lunch walks are a habit I picked up during Covid and one I’m determined to maintain, even if it’s just 15 minutes when the weather’s less than ideal, it’s much better than nothing.

      Before the pandemic, when I worked at the office nearly every day, I wanted to get home as soon as possible so I didn’t take the time to go outside during our short daylight hours every day. Months on end when it’s dark when you start work and equally dark when you stop working really did a number on my mental health. I’m at 60 N, and we get 5 hours of daylight around winter solstice.

    28. Dancing Otter*

      Yay, fall!

      I took off the floral tablecloth in favor of a table runner with turkeys and leaves and pumpkins.
      The heated mattress pad and flannel quilt are back on the bed, and I hauled out the winter nightgowns and sherpa-lined robe.
      I finished knitting two new cowls and a shawl, and unearthed a big plaid scarf I forgot I had.
      Next up is replacing the (silk) peonies and pansies with chrysanthemums or a cornucopia: I got a sale flyer with coupons! Maybe I’ll buy an amaryllis bulb. (It’s still too early for a poinsettia.)

      That said, I forgot to reset the clock in the kitchen, and started my eating window (intermittent fasting) an hour earlier than I intended this morning. Aah, nine hours instead of eight won’t kill me this once. It’s better than showing up for church as the service ends, which I *may* have done at the spring time change.

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        Heated mattress pad – the greatest thing ever! Especially as I like to keep my bedroom 60 or below.

    29. Nonprofit director*

      I love the return to Standard time and am sad that Daylight Saving has been expanded over time to be the majority of the year in the U.S.

      I love Standard time because, where I live in the U.S., it means the sun is overhead at noon. I love the light earlier in the mornings, which is when my body clock wants light to wake up and start the day with more energy. I love when it gets dark earlier in the evenings, as it is easier to wind down when it’s not so light and my sleep greatly improves. I also love to step out into my backyard and see the stars and other wonders of the night sky without having to stay up late and further disrupt my sleep.

    30. Helewise*

      I switch out what’s on the couch and get out the twinkle lights and candles, both real and battery-powered. It’s dark by 5pm here now (like your friend, I prefer it over having it dark until almost 9am), and I have both the battery candles and twinkle lights set to go on when I get home from work. Depending on the year I either switch out or add pillows and throws, getting out velvet or chunky knit or faux fur for that cozy feeling. Those are the only things I do for seasonal decor and it’s stuff that stays until spring, so it’s easy enough for me to manage and feels wonderful.

  5. Church Panic*

    I’m an adult, I live with my mom. I stopped going to church years ago, while I’m still a christian, I don’t agree with my family’s church on many fronts (view of women, anti LGBT, sheer stubborn old-fashioned-ness). My mom still goes to church but doesn’t pressure me at all, even when others at church ask her about me. But.
    Mom recently joined a choir at church. She will be preforming Thanksgiving, Christmas eve, and other times, and specifically requested that I and my partner attend to support her. I’m not opposed to going to church, but I need lines to explain why I don’t come and will not be coming regularly. I used to be a devout and very involved church member. Taught sunday school and confirmation, joined choirs, volunteered for events and joined in parties/dinners. The same people who taught me since preschool and who I eventually joined as church leaders, are still highly involved in the church. They will be asking why I don’t come anymore and begging me to come back.
    How do I say I won’t be re-joining it all without burning bridges or making it uncomfortable for everyone but especially mom? My brother lives out of state and attends whenever he visits. The church is desperately trying to get younger people involved as the congregation is metaphorically (and literally) dying. My family was always super involved, but everyone else moved so mom goes alone most weeks. I want to keep at a distance without needing to have a conversation with my mom and a dozen of my childhood mentors about all the ways I disagree with the church. Does anyone have any lines I can use? I will go for mom’s preformances but it will be so awkward…

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      This might not work, but it’s worth a try – “Oh, I’m good, thanks. Wasn’t that (organ solo or whatever) great tonight?”

    2. My Brain is Exploding*

      Can you choose just ONE performance to attend? And make that the most-attended one of possible. get there just as it starts, sit near the back, leave quickly. Or have an “engagement” afterwards… and bring a plate of cookies to hand to one of the choir members to share with the choir (can’t talk, gotta give this to x and then go to y). I mean that might be overkill but shows some warm thought if not warm conversation!

      1. My Brain is Exploding*

        most attended because if you did that at our church and were close to being late you might have to stand at the back! your church mileage may vary LoL.

      2. Church Panic*

        She’s definitely gonna want me at most if not all, probably the big holidays and important services like “new member day” and “start of the church calendar”. Unfortunately, 20+ years of being a highly involved member means *everyone* knows me and there’s no escaping notice in a crowd (not that there will me much crowd except christmas, I think there’s like 50 members total now, down from a few hundred when I was a kid).

        1. Sloanicota*

          Well, this sounds like she’s basically requesting you to rejoin the church to support her, so unfortunately I think you’re going to have to kindly set and defend a boundary if you’re not willing to do that. You can’t have a religion for her sake.

        2. Middle Aged Lady*

          I found that saying, “this church set me on a beautiful spiritual path and I am thankful. However, I am following it in a different way at this time, but thank you” worked well. If they pressed I said, “I don’t want to talk about it now.” And that actually worked. For the few that persisted, I told them we could meet at another time to discuss it, and NO ONE followed up. You could also try being honest. “This church no linger meets my spiritual needs’ and let them take that as they will. Good luck! I have been there.

            1. Middle Aged Lady*

              Thank you! Other’s’ suggestions to say ‘I have prayed on it’ may be more effective. This one worked for me, and it was true!

          1. Bo Peep*

            “God called me in another direction” sometimes works. It suggests you’re still Christian so they don’t have to “save” you by arguing.

        3. Ginger Cat Lady*

          She can *want* you there all she wants. You can still say no.
          “Mom, I’m glad that you’re happy with where you are and that you’re enjoying the singing. I’m going to support you from afar for the most part, but because I love you I’ll come to one performance to see and hear you sing. Which one would mean the most to you?”
          And then hold FIRM on the “one performance” boundary. Use some of the other scripts suggested here for that – there has been some good advice.
          I know with churches they structure things to make it hard to say no, and changing that pattern after a lifetime can be hard.
          But it CAN be done.

        4. Arts Akimbo*

          That precipitous drop in membership ought to be a signal to the church leaders that they’re out of step with the times and the needs of their congregation. From what you’ve said, though, I’m guessing they aren’t seeing it that way. :(

          1. Nicosloanica*

            To be honest, not really. My church is UU and very liberal but there’s still been a huge drop off in attendance within the last generation. There’s been larger demographic shifts. None of my friends now (30s-40s) would consider attending church on Sundays or bringing their kids. We are in an urban area; I think it’s a bit better in the suburbs. But a lot of moderate mainline churches are experiencing this, while actually the more conservative megachurches are doing better.

            1. Samwise*

              UU and they’re so retrograde?! Wow, my experience of UU is that they’re very liberal. Maybe that is just the UU congregations I’m familiar with, or where I have lived.

              1. Sloanicota*

                What? Oh, I’m not the OP, if that’s the confusion. I was just responding to the comment that perhaps if the church was more liberal they wouldn’t have lost so much membership. That hasn’t been my experience FWIW.

        5. My Brain is Exploding*

          oh, ok. When you said Thanksgiving Christmas and other times I thought it was one long Christmas season versus multiple performances throughout the entire calendar year.

    3. Sloanicota*

      My church organizes semi-secular concerts that are separate from regular services. Or they also perform religious music (Handel during Christmas/Easter, carols at the holidays, whatever) but as a concert, on a weeknight. I think they do paid tickets to support the work of the congregation but that could easily be for the food pantry or whatever they support instead. They also perform at senior centers and the like. Perhaps you can steer your mom towards this and promise to come. It’s less pressure than a service and not all the regular people. Particularly if you come with a small group that insulates you.

    4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      How about a “Aw thank you! I’ve prayed about it and am going to stay with where I’m currently at, but I really loved this performance tonight, wasn’t Marge great with her solo/I can tell everyone worked so hard, did you see the setup, how long do you think that took?”

      I found that ‘I prayed about it and God told me I’m good where I’m at/I’m in a season of…’ is pretty much Teflon. You can leave unspoken the part where that statement ends in “and God told me not to be an asshole to people, in the red words in the actual Bible, so I won’t be joining you here”. And if they still encourage you to come back, then thank them and say you’ll definitely pray about it.

      And then you end with a longish subject change followed by a question, which changes their focus and then puts the onus on them to answer you that yes, Marge was indeed amazing and yes, they’ve been coming in every day for a week to do the setup.

      1. Church Panic*

        Oh, that’s a good one! “I’ve prayed about it” is right next to “oh that’s an idea I’ll think about” in that they can assume it means I agree when it really means I’ve already decided

        1. Not A Manager*

          I was going to suggest the secular equivalent, “I’ll think about it,” but I like “I’ve prayed on it” even more.

          1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

            Yeah I’ve prayed on it means if they want to disagree, then they’re butting up against disagreeing with God and so far I haven’t met anyone bold enough to argue.

      2. The OG Sleepless*

        Yes! “God is leading me to…” “I’m feeling led to…” and so forth can get you out of all kinds of things in evangelical churches. I’m in a similar position to Church Panic, I used to be quite religious but I’m an atheist now. I still enjoy Christmas music performances but I have to walk a fine line not to give anybody the impression I’m coming back for good. Fortunately, I don’t have anybody really pressuring me at the moment.

    5. RagingADHD*

      This is really dependent on tone/ delivery, but there is a way of just bulldozing your conversation partner with enthusiastic chitchat that just basically ignores their questions.

      If you know these folks well, you can keep them busy asking after their children / grandchildren / pets / knee replacements, prattle a bit about the lovely music / lights / flowers, and then see someone over there that you just *have* to say hi to.

      It might be a bit out of character, but it’s pleasant and inoffensive.

      I also think you can probably cull the list and not attend every single thing your mom might want. Christmas service and new member day are not the same level.

    6. Rainy*

      I love saying, in a super vague tone of voice, like I’m not quite paying attention, “Oh…no, thank you” to things like that.

    7. Brevity*

      This is side-stepping the main issue, but: what about live-streaming so you can watch at home?

      If this church is serious about wanting to attract younger members, you could feasibly argue that they need to embrace technology. I think if you share that idea with your mom enthusiastically enough (“Hey, MOAHMM!!! I was thinking about your performance and I go this GREAT IDEA!!1!”), it might fly. Pro tip: think very, very hard and come up with the name of at least one or two people already in her church who are techie-types, that you can name, so she doesn’t try to rope you into it.

      This is coming from my own experience with my own highly controlling, church-going Mom. Any kind of side-stepping that solved or avoided the issue was best, because the big conversation would never, ever stay even-keeled.

      1. Church Panic*

        They do actually live-stream! It’s their one concession to modern-day, because so many members are unable to leave the house. They used to record and deliver cassette tapes, then CDs, to anyone who wanted one. They figured out facebook pretty early, putting up sermons and special performances, and started live-streams in 2020.
        So I could go in for the big ones (like her first performance and christmas, both are evening events) and watch the others online with the excuse of not wanting to be up and out early!
        The choir she’s joined is one of the special ones that performs less than once a month, so it wouldn’t be an every-week kind of thing at least.
        Thanks!

        1. Rainy*

          Is there any suspicion at all that your mother is trying to drag you back to church by insisting you attend each and every one of her performances?

          I just ask because my husband’s mother periodically tries to “research churches in our area” “just to give you options” even though he has been very clear that religion isn’t his deal and even if it was, supporting his parents’ church and all their abusive and terrible practices wouldn’t be the religion that was his deal.

          1. Church Panic*

            The choir she joined is one that only performs about 10 times a year. She would love for me to come back but she isn’t pressuring me, just really nervous about her first few performances. The church, on the other hand would LOVE to have me back and definitely have no inkling how much my opinion of them has changed. I’m mostly looking for how to deal with all the folks who’ve known me since preschool and couldn’t imagine that the sunday school teacher/super-involved member would no longer agree with their take on the bible…
            I don’t want to start drama, just watch my mom’s music a few times without getting involved again.

            1. Rainy*

              Absolutely bland anodyne responses, then. Practice in the mirror or with a friend.

              A bunch of people have advised quasi-religious stuff like “I’m praying on it” and I personally would stay away from that, because it’s going to encourage them to think you’re still engaging with their faith and that you can still be pressured and prayed at, and while you can be, they will do so, so you’re really just taking all that emotional load on yourself and making your experience worse.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Fun fact I learned from my MIL: St. Claire is the Catholic Church’s precedent for broadcasting mass. That’s Claire as in “clairvoyant”— when ill and restricted to bed, she miraculously observed mass.

          So…. TV & radio & streaming are valid.

    8. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      A big smile, say “Just visiting!” in a friendly tone, then change the subject. Repeat as needed.

    9. Ellis Bell*

      With this kind of thing, I like to be prepared to move the temperature of my response pretty swiftly if people don’t drop it. So start off warm, the warmer you start off the more the contrast later on: “That’s so flattering! This was a big part of my life and it’s good of you to let me know I’m still so welcome. It’s a no, though, it’s not something I can commit to”. If necessary, go cooler: “I’m sorry, but this is getting a little bit awkward when I’ve already said I can’t commit to it.” and go cold if pressed to justify: “I’m going to leave it there, I think, and go catch up with someone else.” The main thing to remember is that you’re not the one making it awkward, and return that awkwardness to sender unremorsefully: “Are all guests tonight being courted like this?” or “I’m not sure what that has to do with the fact that this is my mum’s night and I’m here to support her.” I wouldn’t get into your reasons at all, and be very bland and vague about any enquiries into your spiritual practice. It’s simply not their business, and you don’t need any reasons to say no.

    10. Katie*

      I’d it makes you feel better I changed churches from my parents and the few times I was back no one questioned me.

      1. BookMom*

        Yes, it’s quite common for people to find a different church when they are adults who live in the same place they grew up. Get out of the shadow of their parents, or the people who still see them as a child, rebellious teenager, not have their spouse feel like an add-on, or whatever. But, they may choose to attend their childhood church on holidays, special events, etc. I think expressing gratitude for this being the place you grew up could be helpful social lubricant.

    11. Rage*

      When I visit my folks (who live in another state), I attend church with them. But, like you, I have issues with many viewpoints held by modern-day organized religion/Christianity.

      My mother is very devout (she went to seminary, after all). I have not discussed my beliefs with her, but she often mentions to me that I need to “find a church family”. I simply nod and say, “Yeah, I just haven’t found one that feels right.”

      And it’s true. I don’t say I haven’t looked, and I don’t mention my beliefs.

      You could say, “I enjoy hearing you perform with the choir, but this church family doesn’t feel right for me full-time.” And stick to that. Then change the subject.

    12. Distractable Golem*

      I find that wearing a mask in those settings helps a lot. It disguises my facial expressions, makes small talk difficult, and is a cultural signifier that distracts and irritates those people that I don’t really want to spend extended time with anyway. Protecting myself from viruses is a nice bonus.

    13. Despachito*

      I think you do not absolutely have to have a conversation about where you disagree with them.

      You seem pretty adamant about not wanting to go and this can help you a lot. (The worst situations to handle for me are those where I am myself unsure whether I am doing the right thing which does not seem to be your case in the moment.)

      Do not get into arguments with the church member, do not explain. Use some vague stuff (“I’m good, thanks” seems perfect to me.) Let your mindset be “I am not joining again but I wish you all the best”. Basically grey rock them and do it with a smile. You are over this phase, you owe them nothing. If they pester you it is on them.

      But if you think you would not want/be able to do this or it would be too disturbing to you, just don’t go. Your mom will survive.

      1. Church Panic*

        Hmm, I’ll have to practice grey rocking, I’ve never needed it before. You’re right, I’m certain about not wanting to rejoin as a member, and my reasons for that would probably cause a huge church scandal and a family feud. There’s a few lines suggested above that I’m gonna add to my arsenal, and I need to practice shifting the conversation to the other person’s life and away from mine. Hopefully my siblings will get time off for the holidays and I can move the spotlight to them!

        1. allathian*

          That sounds like a good plan.

          You undoubtedly have your reasons for living with your mom, and I’m absolutely not questioning your decision. But in some conservative circles, young adults, especially women, aren’t seen as fully adult until they marry and have children of their own, and move out of their parents’ house. I suspect that they see you as an adjunct to your mom, not your own person, and will continue to do so for as long as you live with her.

          For that matter, are you convinced your mom sees you as a fully mature adult with the right to make your own choices about church membership and religious practices and beliefs?

    14. Firecat*

      Been in your shoes several times and I’ve never been asked why I’ve been gone.

      Oh hey we’ve missed you on Sundays!
      I know! I’ve missed you too! how’s Carol and Sparky?

      There you are! Where have you been?
      Oh I’m working myself to the bone since graduation. But how are you? How’s the family?

      I’m not the most socially graceful but I’ve always managed to steer these comments into more “catching up territory” so I think you’ll be great and able to do the same!

      1. EA*

        Yes to this and not answering the actual question, or just answering the part of it you’re comfortable with. So if they said, “We’ve missed you! When will you be coming back to teach Sunday school?” Just respond to the missed you part, like Firecat says, and ignore the other parts.

    15. hmmmmm*

      A white lie option, although this depends on whether your mom does a lot of sharing about your personal life: “Oh, I usually work every Sunday.”

      I have a job where weekend work is required, and I’ve definitely said I was “working” or going to work, even when I was actually available.

  6. Manders*

    I would like to thank the readers who helped me a couple of weeks ago. I previously posted asking how much to clean my friend’s place while she was in a mental health facility. My friend M and I cleaned for about 8-9 hours each, and it really did need to be done. We respected boundaries as much as possible (only entered A’s bedroom to remove food, didn’t do any real organizing, etc). The good news is that she was extremely appreciative for the cleaning that we did and acknowledged that she needed the help on that front. She spent about 12 days in an inpatient program and seems to be doing OK now that she’s out.
    That bad news is that her elderly dog needed to be euthanized while she was away. Unfortunately I had to negotiate with her and her parents about this, and they were adamant that the dog not be put down until A could do it. So the poor dog ended up being in the same position for 25 hours, unable to move at all. I was not in a position to do anything because the dog was a true gentle giant, weighing in at 170 pounds(!!!). I couldn’t get him to the vet if I wanted to, and nobody would consent to me having a mobile vet come out. In dealing with her parents I got a small taste of why she was being treated for mental health issues. A came home to a mess, literally and figuratively. I hope that moving forward she continues to do OK. Thanks again for everyone who commented.

    1. Gyne*

      I didn’t comment on the original post but I remember it and I wanted to say that you are a good friend! I’m glad to hear the cleaning was a success.

      1. E*

        + so glad you’re in her life and hope you can do something nice for yourself as that must’ve been pretty exhausting/demoralizing for you

    2. Arts Akimbo*

      I’m so glad the cleaning worked out well and that your friend is doing better, and so sorry about the poor dog.

  7. Jackalope*

    So, blog readers who know Boston: I’m going to be at a multi-day conference there soon that will be held in the North End. I’m not sure if I will have access to a vehicle, so I’m assuming I’ll be going on foot (bus is also okay). Any recs on restaurants for lunch/dinner? I’m a fan of Italian, like seafood but already live someplace that’s got good seafood so that’s lower on my priority list, and will try most stuff at least once. Any thoughts?

    A few weeks ago youall shared several ideas about things to do in Boston and I took screenshots of everything, but if someone has other thoughts I’d take those ideas too, although the lack of vehicle means it’s needs to be walkable or doable by bus (I’ve ridden buses in many cities around the world and am comfortable with them but of course it always takes awhile to get used to the specifics of any one place.)

    1. WellRed*

      In Boston, you might find it easier to take the T to certain areas. The North end us great for Italian and I’m sure some one already mentioned the cannoli.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        I double checked – no one has mentioned yet: Mike’s Pastry on Hanover Street. Don’t forget the cannoli!
        I was truly amazed at how walkable downtown Boston is.

        And if you’re that close, I would highly recommend trying to get aboard the USS Constitution.

    2. Bon voyage*

      You basically can’t go wrong with Italian food in the North End! Famiglia Giorgio’s has huge portions. Some of the smaller spots on the east side of the neighborhood are great/somewhat fancier.

      One other tip for lunch is to check out Boston Public Market! Much tastier than the more touristy spots nearby (ie: Quincy Market or the one still named after an enslaver).

      The North End is walkable to the Boston Commons/Garden, the waterfront, and the Aquarium. It’s also on or near all of the subway lines, so it’s a pretty easy spot to explore from! Happy to share more recs if there’s a vibe you’re seeking.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Prezza and Neptune Oyster are my favorite North End dinner spots. I like Bisoteca de Monica a lot too.

      For lunch, Regina Pizzeria is a local institution.

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      Welcome!
      Seconding Monica, Prezza and Neptune for restaurants, Boston Public Market and Quincy Market.
      I don’t think you’ll need a car at all. Boston is very walkable and you can also always take the T. If you have some time, you can do the Freedom Trail and/or a Duck Tour. A Duck Tour is a great (and efficient) way to get an overall view of the city. The Aquarium is cool and the Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum is awesome. The Old City Hall is right near there as well.
      I hope you have fun!

    5. TPS reporter*

      Old Town trolley is another good option for seeing the sights and you can get on and off. the Liberty Hotel isn’t too far, it has a lot of good food and drinks options and is a cool historical building. the Hub on Causeway at TD Garden has food from various local favorites in a food hall type of setting.

    6. spiriferida*

      You can get a T pass (Charlie Card) at any T station that will let you take the bus and trains – I think you can also order them in advance to be sent to you, but depending how soon the trip is, it might be easier to get it when you’re there. It’ll save you a lot of hassle if you start with that, especially because in my experience trying to pay your fare on the bus itself is more trouble than it’s worth. Honestly even if you do have a vehicle, trying to drive around the North End is a nightmare between the road tangle and parking.

      1. Heffalump*

        A Charlie Card–would that allude to the song “MTA”?

        “And through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich as the train goes rumbling through.”

        1. HeNeverGotOff*

          Yes! They’ve changed station names since the song was written, though, so be aware if you ride…

    7. Alex*

      Lol well if you like Italian food and don’t have a car, the North end is pretty much the perfect place for you because it is a huge pain to drive in but has all the Italian food.

    8. Bluebell*

      For lunch during weekdays, Galleria Umberto is a great super casual option. The lines are worth it. Seconding the Boston Public Market rec- lots of good options. I like Bricco for dinner, but you’ve gotten lots of other suggestions. Bova is another worthwhile Italian bakery, and there’s. Flour Bakery not far from N End if you want excellent sticky buns and delicious salad/sandwich options.

    9. Anonymous Educator*

      For a restaurant in the North End, Panza.

      For a bakery, Bova’s Bakery.

      If you want a more high end but excellent restaurant, I’d recommend Geppetto, which is 15-minute T ride (or 30-minute walk) from the North End.

    10. Red Flags Everywhere*

      Make sure you take cash! Granted it was pre-covid, but I was not prepared to pay cash for expensive dinners and someone needed to spot me until I could get to an ATM.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      if you’re looking for history… this from nps dot gov website:
      “The Union Oyster House is both the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the country-its doors first opened to diners in 1826”

      The Green Dragon Tavern is rebuilt history— the original 17th century tavern was torn down but the newer building talks about being the place where the colonists learned of the British plans for the Battles of Lexington and Concord… thus triggering Paul Revere’s Ride. They had a good black sausage when I went prepandemic.

    12. Take the ferry*

      Be aware that while Boston has a reputation for having good public transportation, in actuality it is quite ghastly compared to the rest of the Northeast cities.

      Also, since you mentioned buses and as someone who chooses buses over subway when traveling to see more of a city, be aware that you often can’t get there from here by bus in Boston proper. The North End isn’t terribly far from subway stations but it’s deceptively difficult to get to the subway and none of the streets make sense to someone used to traditional city grid layouts.

      Having said all the discouraging things, the waterfront is lovely and just walking around a bit is worthwhile. Also, I’d recommend taking the ferry from Long Wharf to the Charlestown Navy Yard if you decide to go to the USS Constitution.

      1. Jackalope*

        When you say it’s ghastly, what does that mean? It doesn’t go enough places? It’s always late? The buses are too rare, and you can’t count on them? They tend to be really sketchy? Just wanting to figure out what to expect if I do end up needing them.

        1. Yoyoyo*

          I live in NH, not Boston, but based on my experiences I would not call the public transportation in Boston ghastly, and neither would my three siblings who have all lived in Boston at various times. I have never used the buses but have used the T on many occasions as I refuse to drive in Boston (it’s a nightmare). Of course there are issues like delays sometimes or crowded trains but honestly, it’s the best way to get around and I’ve never had a major issue.

        2. Take the ferry*

          yes, late, unreliable/often skips trips entirely, runs infrequently, doesn’t go to many useful places, some bus drivers are terrible drivers, many lines have terrible hours.

          The entire public transit system shuts down shortly after midnight, so also be aware of that.

      2. Heffalump*

        There’s an old joke that Boston was laid out along 17th-century cowpaths, so to get around, you should think like a 17th-century cow.

    13. MGRT*

      You should definitely take a Duck Tour of Boston, just need to buy a ticket 1-2 days in advance. One of the spots it leave from is the Aquarium, which is within walking distance, it is near Fanueil Hall, another tourist spot.

  8. Dragonfly7*

    What is the best type of service to get rid of junk furniture?
    I have two pieces of truly junk furniture that shouldn’t be donated or given away. Apartment residents aren’t allowed to participate in curbside bulk pickup or even take bulk items directly to the dump in my city, otherwise I’d just find some friends with a pickup truck.

    1. the cat's pajamas*

      Do you have friends with a pickup truck who aren’t apartment residents that you could leave it on their curb and then repay them for the fee if there is one?

      If not maybe taskrabbit or a similar service if one exists where you live?

    2. WellRed*

      Apartment dwellers where I live can bring stuff to the dump but we have to pay a fee. Are you sure it’s not an option? You could check locally online groups for someone willing to haul off stuff for money.

      1. Dragonfly7*

        I double-checked the city website, but no, it’s not an option. I will check online for local folks.

    3. kina lillet*

      I don’t know if they’re “best,” but I did have good luck with the 1 800 got junk company. It was kinda expensive, but they took a LOT of basement stuff that I really needed to be gone.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        I’ve used them a couple of times. (There are a number of similar services in my area, they’re not a monopoly.) Make sure that you know exactly what you want them to take; the first time, I had some last-minute inspirations and that added to my bill.

        The flip side to this is that they bill by the amount of space your items take up in their truck. That means that you can get them to haul away large, thin items, or smaller items that will “pack in” with your main items (in my case, on top of two massive 100 kg CRT TVs) for almost no extra cost.

    4. The OG Sleepless*

      In my area there is a business called 1-800-GOT-JUNK that will do exactly this. They will haul away pretty much anything. Maybe Google it and see if it or something similar exists where you are?

    5. Can't Sit Still*

      I have found 1-800-Got-Junk to be quick and professional. They are very good at playing Tetris to minimize the space your load takes up in their truck. Years ago, I had a couple of broken dining chairs that appeared fine, but were actually dangerous. They broke them apart in my driveway before loading them in the truck.

      They also clean up after themselves, something not every junk hauler does.

    6. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      I had a LOT of junk to be hauled away. I just did a Google search for junk haulers and found a local company that was reasonably priced and had great reviews. They were quick and efficient and it was SUCH a relief to have that stuff GONE!

    7. There You Are*

      My dad had to get rid of a couch and love seat he no longer wanted. They had been chewed up and peed on by his elderly German Shepherds before they passed.

      His city doesn’t do curbside pickup and he would have had to rent a truck to take them to the city dump and then pay a not-small fee.

      So he cut a piece off the furniture each week and put it in the bin with his regular trash. It took a few months to get the last of it out.

      He was able to saw off garbage-can size bits in his garage with an electric chain saw, but maybe you could bust yours up with a sledge hammer or use a hand saw at key joints?

      1. Dragonfly7*

        I’ve done this with a mattress and box spring at a prior apartment. A neighbor who collects scrap metal was happy to take the metal parts.

    8. ronda*

      if you have a local buy nothing group, you could ask for some one with city dump privileges if they could take it to dump for you.

  9. Amber Rose*

    NaNoWriMo check in! Anyone else writing? What are you writing about? How’s your word count? It’s probably not as bad as mine. D:

    1. Forensic13*

      I’m writing again this year! I’m writing a comedy horror about women who decide to have a ghost hunt bachelorette party at a haunted house.

      I’m at about 3400 right now, hoping to catch up and get ahead tonight.

    2. Magda*

      I’m doing it! I always think I should have evolved beyond needing it, but every year I end up benefiting from that kick in the pants. I spend a lot of time plotting and outlining usually, so I kind of need an excuse to sit down and pour it all out, and I’m always amazed how fast it comes when I have the right incentive. Happy writing, everyone!

    3. SparklingBlue*

      Every time I’ve done it, I’ve bent the rules a little–I don’t have to specifically write a novel, but everything I write over the course of November has to add up to 50,000 words. This is harder than it sounds!

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah I think I only once did the “classic” Nano where you start a new project on page one and write until you hit 50,000 words. That is fun too, but a) a 50,000 word novel would actually be A Problem if you were writing something other than a quick romance – so even if you did it “correctly” it’s not like you are well set up to be a novelist now and b) I need to bring existing projects along far more than I need to start new projects all the time. So I often dedicate Nano to writing a draft of the second half of a work, rewriting something I’ve written before, etc.

    4. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m working on a story about a woman returning to her hometown to unravel the past disappearance of her best friend, while a mysterious podcast suggests her husband’s powerful family might have played a part.

      I’m frustrated that I didn’t spend October writing a detailed outline of each chapter, like I said I would. My initial intention was to focus on one chapter per day. Now, it is to draft a new scene every day, no matter how many words and where it will fall in the outline.

      I’m averaging just under 1000 words a day, plus lots of editing as I go, which I can’t help. But I’m writing, which is more than I can say of the last two or three months.

    5. WestsideStory*

      Yes I am writing the cozy mystery that has been in my head for a dozen years. 3 pages so far, which is the entire first chapter.
      I was thinking about writing the last chapter next (revealing the murderer of course). Then working back from there.
      Is this a good idea? I’ve only done nonfiction in the past…

    6. Rage*

      I’m ML for the Wichita, KS region. I haven’t started yet (boo) but since I’m in grad school, working full time, and have been dealing with a medical issue for some months now, it’s just not a priority.

      But next weekend – that’s the fun time. For years now, a small group of us (3-4 people) select a weekend, rent an AirB&B, and spend the weekend getting drunk and writing. Ernest Hemingway said, “Write drunk; edit sober.” So we have dubbed our annual event the “Hemingway Party”. I will at least get SOME word-count in then.

        1. Rage*

          Well, we did finally figure out my medical issue (mostly) so I’m back up to 99% functionality. Which, considering I was somewhere around 25% for a while, this is a significant improvement.

    7. don'tbeadork*

      Ah, thanks for the reminder. I’d been doing it pretty consistently for several years but got out of the habit as work pressures ramped up the last few years. I’d meant to start again this year and it absolutely jumped out of my head.

      So no, your word count cannot be as bad as mine is right this second… ;)

    8. Valancy Stirling*

      Not officially, but I’ve been meaning to get back to writing. I have a half finished horror story, a half plotted MG fantasy, and a half (sense a pattern? :D) written romance novella. I might as well use November as a way to truly dive back into it.

    9. Tiny clay insects*

      I’m not able to commit to a full nanowrimo, but I’m doing at least 500 words a day. It adds up!

    10. CopperPenny*

      I’ve been wanting to do nanowrimo but I’m not at a good season of life to try now. But my goal is to write a picture book and have it ready for illustrations by the end of the month. I have a toddler and I’m friends with lots of toddler parents and primary school teachers who I’m hoping will be happy to beta read for me. So I have my idea and the basic outline at this point.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      Nope. I was going to do it for Book 3, but my surgery wasn’t scheduled until November 9. So just limping along and trying to get some work done when I’m not too exhausted.

  10. ThatGirl*

    This is really random but curious if anyone has ideas. My brother in law is 37, he has two daughters, oldest is 3. We are looking for Christmas gift ideas that are for him, but that his kiddo could maybe join in on. I suspect this will be hard because she’s pretty little still. He’s not really into sports – his hobbies are gaming, building things (both Lego style and handyman type stuff), board games, etc. The kiddo has shown a proclivity for blocks and building and stacking things.

    1. the cat's pajamas*

      For very little kids, I’ve often bought them those large bouncy balls you get at the grocery store or big box stores. They are inexpensive and often a hit. The kids can roll the ball around, bounce it, etc. No choking hazards or moving parts, etc.

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      What about getting him an adult version and her a kid version of the same kind of thing?

      1. English Rose*

        Yes that was my thought. Also maybe some kind of sponsoring an animal in a shelter they can go and visit, or similar.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        A great thing about memberships is that it removes the pressure to “get your money’s worth” by only going when you have the whole day. You can stop in for an hour here and there.

    3. Squidhead*

      There are “kid” and “family” versions of some popular board games (Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne come to mind). The kid might be a little young at 3 but she’ll age into them soon if you’re willing to give a gift to “Daddy and Kid.” Or give the regular version of a game and figure the kids will age in eventually (You can play the basics of the regular Ticket to Ride game without reading). There are also many dexterity-focused board games that they could probably play with together now even if she’s not really into rules yet (Pickup sticks, Jenga, Yeti in my Spaghetti, Cat Tower…)

      1. ThatGirl*

        We have a kid game in mind for the girls that he can play with them, but that’s more for them.

    4. Chapeau*

      We get my brother in law family-experience gifts. Our local symphony does a children’s series that’s an hour three or four times a year and is designed for very young children. We’ve also done annual passes to the zoo, children’s museum, and a local amusement park that’s well known for catering to children. Annual passes take the pressure off of getting your money’s worth if kiddo has a meltdown a couple of hours into a visit, and a lot of those places have good discounts before the holidays.

    5. word nerd*

      An experience that you think the whole family might enjoy? Zoo tickets? A membership to somewhere? I feel like the whole family can potentially enjoy going to an apple orchard in the fall with adult + kid stuff–obviously that doesn’t work for a Christmas gift, but is there something in his town that could be a fun event/experience for him and his kids?

      1. word nerd*

        Another thought: what about an advent calendar that’s mostly for him but could also be enjoyed by kids? I mean, they could probably just get a kick out of opening the doors on it for him. The first adult advent calendar that comes to mind is the Bonne Maman jam one with 24 different teensy jars of unique flavors, but I’m sure there are all sorts of ones that could relate to his hobbies.

    6. Sloanicota*

      Instruments? I’ve found really little kids love pianos and ukuleles, and there are some kid-oriented ones that an adult could also have fun playing. This is a recommendation I’ve made to newly stay at home dads who are trying to figure out what to do with their young kids and it’s been a hit before.

    7. Seashell*

      Do they have a backyard? I’ve seen cute decorated/customized cornhole boards. I guess it’s kind of a sport, but one that a 3 year old and a non-sporty adult could play together.

    8. Double A*

      Magnatiles!! The Picasso tiles are the same and a lot cheaper. They are truly great for almost all ages, 2 and up or so (though even young kids can enjoyed smashing constructions). I am not a very buildy parent and I even enjoy them. And you can never have too many so you can give them for multiple occasions.

      So easy to clean up and store. A dream toy.

    9. What do I know?*

      The child development experts might not recommend this, but my 3 year old plays Mario video games with Dad. For his birthday this week, my husband bought himself a new Mario video game , wrapped it up, and then asked our son to play it with him when he unwrapped his presents. So literally a gift for Dad that he can use with 3 year old.

    10. Hypatia*

      Marbleworks, duplo blocks, zoob builderz, and experience gifts. when my kids were little I used cash gifts from family members for children’s museum membership, swim passes for the Waterpark, zoo memberships.
      there are as kits to build and paint bird houses or similar building/art activity.

    11. kz*

      Your BIL sounds a lot like my husband and I have a 3 year old. one of their favorite activities together is building marble runs out of duplo blocks. if you search marble run building blocks online you’ll see the type of thing I mean. basically duplo blocks that have marble run pieces as well. I wonder if there’s a “fancy” looking set that would seem appropriate as a gift for BIL or you could gift it to both him and the kid. good luck!

      1. ThatGirl*

        Love this idea! But they also have a 1.5 year old and I’d be concerned the marbles are a choking hazard…

    12. Clisby*

      When my two kids were 3, they (girl and boy) liked the old-fashioned wooden blocks, Lincoln Logs, and train sets.

    13. Wordnerd*

      I’m not sure if this leans to much toward a gift for the kiddo that the dad can join in on, but I hear good things about KiwiCo, a subscription service that sends science/building project kits. There are different lines for different age groups.

    14. SuprisinglyADHD*

      How about a science-type thing like growing crystals or build-your-own volcano? Dad can build/setup and kids can help pour/paint/etc.
      Alternatively, I have very fond memories of a huge wooden dinosaur skeleton! Little kids can sort pieces and fetch things, and assembly can be spread out over multiple days to accommodate short attention spans.
      *note: the one we built had the head fall off a lot, that could be dangerous for kids who aren’t super mobile yet

    15. IzzyTheCat*

      One year when our littles were small I got my husband a few kid-and-dad matching sock sets. No one seemed super excited about it on the day, BUT it ended up being really fun for all of them over the next few years, putting on the same socks as Dad some days and feeling special. It was very cute!

    16. Octhex*

      Magnetic building tiles! (As large of a box as is comfortable for your finances)

      They are definitely marketed toward children but I have found that if the box is open, adults will just start playing with them and love it. This is truly an all-ages toy.

      Different brands have different shapes and colors so you can make some choices there.

  11. Coyote River*

    My daughter came to visit this week, and my heart swells with pride at the fine young woman she’s become. She’s soon finishing up her service in the military like a true chip off the old block, and now she wants to come and work at my company while she attends university. I couldn’t be happier or more proud of her, and I’m certain she has a bright career ahead.

    I feel like everything I’ve achieved in my life, my own battles, my own time in the military, building my company, struggling with fatherhood… all of it feels so worth it now, to see my daughter flourish, and give her whatever opportunities I can to help.

    I apologise if this is too off-topic, I just needed to share my pride and joy as a father.

    1. Sloanicota*

      That’s so sweet. I wish her all the best! I love to hear fathers delight in their daughter’s accomplishments.

    2. anomalous flamingo*

      Aww! I totally know how you feel. My own daughter is following some of the path I’ve laid down for her ( not quite my footsteps, but we’re definitely in the same field), and it’s lovely to have the feeling of having paved the way.

    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      Awww, your comment gives me the warm fuzzies. Enjoy your fatherly pride and joy! And thank you for posting! It’s so nice to read something that beams out happiness.

    4. Dr. Doll*

      Good heavens, no need to apologize for sharing something so absolutely wonderful. It’s great to hear unabashed love and pride in a family member. Good for you both and very best wishes as your daughter proceeds in her new chapter.

    5. Katefish*

      I’m currently in the toddler stage of parenting and needed to hear this – literally the goal. :) (My son is active and fun; it’s just a tiring stage of life.)

    6. Esprit de l'escalier*

      This is the most heartwarming post I’ve read in a long time. Thank you for sharing it, and best wishes to you and to your daughter.

  12. word nerd*

    Anybody here who reads regularly and finds “reading challenges” to be detrimental to their reading? I recently hit my goal of 200 books this year on Goodreads (listened to or read), and I think I would probably read more long books and give up on books that I’m not into more often if I weren’t tracking the number on Goodreads. I do read bricks sometimes, but I think I would read more of them if I weren’t tracking my numbers. And once I’m more than halfway through a book, I’m more likely to keep going even if I’m not enjoying myself just so I can check it off the list once I’ve put the initial time in. I’m curious to hear others’ opinions/experiences.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Yeah, I have found that challenges are only for things I need to stretch myself on or track for some reason. If there’s something I already do well, or do to my satisfaction, then adding a challenge just adds a weird vibe that detracts, for me.

      I am very liberal now about stopping reading whatever and whenever I want. It’s been freeing.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I was thinking about this today in the context of enjoying the “gamification” of nanowrimo but really loathing it in other forms – like duolingo or wordle, where I don’t want to buy into the streak thing because it would just make me play more than I want – or in some cases, I find myself … not cheating exactly, but changing what I do in order to meet quotas, which can be “fun” or can end up being silly (like reading shorter / lighter books to meet a reading challenge when that wasn’t my purpose in doing the challenge). Basically I think it works when it connects to your actual goal and values and boosts your good intentions, and not if it works against them.

    3. trust me I'm a PhD*

      i’ve started deliberately setting the goodreads challenge on the low side, b/c i like a completed challenge as a way to easily track what books i read over the year; but i want to be able to complete it without stressing or changing the books i read to suit the challenge

      1. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

        Yeah my Goodreads challenge is like 20 or 25 books and I always find that I get some nice long ones in there! Well, not as much this year, because _gestures at username_.

    4. WeavingLibrarian*

      Know that you are not alone and keep trying new ways to look at your reading.

      I think I have been challenging myself to read lots of books since the summer reading programs I did as a kid. For the last two years, I have tried to break myself of this habit. I don’t do the kind with particular goals (like read a book by a retired librarian), but I still do the read x number of books because I can’t break the habit.

      I do however set that goal lower than I previously did and that works well. If I only “have” to read 50 books, I can read longer ones and give up more quickly.

      Also I find the 50 page rule helpful. (https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/32832-if-you-re-50-years-old-or-younger-give-every-book)

      I am rooting for you.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          My life was legit changed by an NPR interview with someone who had discovered the concept of “not continuing the book if you’re not interested in it.” I am more likely to try stuff that’s outside my usual wheelhouse. (Dava Shastri’s Last Day still noodles up in my consciousness in different ways.)

          I’m less than 50 pages, though. I’d say it’s more like: Most often I give it a chapter, and if I don’t pick it back up, I admit this is not for me. Then like word nerd there’s the “Nope. Nope. Not for me by page 2.” And then there are the books where I make it 1/3-1/2 through and the promising parts are just not pulling together into a plot I care about. At this point I either skim, flip to the end to satisfy any “so how did this resolve?” itch, or put it down with the deadly curse “I don’t care what happens to any of these people.”

      1. word nerd*

        Oh my gosh, that quote is hilarious!! But I will admit that I once gave up on a novel after listening to it for only one and a half minutes because the author had already used “girl boss” twice unironically and I couldn’t stand it.

    5. Double A*

      I changed my goal from number of books read to number of pages so I can still count books I give up on. And longer books “count” more.

      1. Double A*

        Oh also I don’t use an app or anything to track this, I just write it in a notebook and add up my total. My goal this year was 10,000 pages and I’m over 3000 pages past it. I also set a relatively realistic goal because I have small kids so there are times I don’t have much time to read.

        1. word nerd*

          Oh, this is interesting. Of course with my personality, I immediately went over to look at my number of pages proofreading for Project Gutenberg, and I realized I could add thousands of pages to my reading count if I included my proofreading… which kind of shows how invested I am in my numbers.

    6. Lemonwhirl*

      I’ve found that I get too obsessed with result-based goals and it’s “safer” for me to have goals that are based on habits or tasks. So, “read 100 books this year” results in me neglecting my family and becoming obsessed with reading, while “read 20 minutes a day” is a goal that gets good results without turning into an obsession.

    7. Cookies For Breakfast*

      Yeah. My impression of reading goals (which might be limited or off base) is they help participants look impressive and establish themselves as “book people” on social media, but constrain enjoyment in pretty much the way you said.

      I would love to make a bigger deal out of talking about books and joining in online conversations, but if I’m honest to myself, I don’t have it in me to keep up with every single new release and force myself into a certain reading pace. I consider myself an avid reader even though I will never hit 100 books a year, or even 50. But I feel complete freedom in choosing to read whatever I’m in the mood for, whenever I want, and however quickly I want. I’m content with that :)

    8. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t have problems with reading challenges per se (though I don’t set goals for reading anymore, I just track) but if a specific book becomes an obligation – like a book club or something – then no matter how much I wanted to read it before, I will not be able to make myself pick it up. No book clubs or groups for me.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Totally with you on this one. The majority of books I haven’t finished (or bought and not started) were books I was assigned during school holidays, which made for very interesting conversations with teachers at the start of the new year.

        I’d love to be able to participate in book clubs, because I’m sure I’d meet people I have things in common with. But that’s just not how my brain works! My book choices are based on mood, interest and energy, and I can’t force myself to read a “prescribed” book or finish one within a timeframe.

    9. Teapot Translator*

      Part of me wishes I was motivated by challenges, but I’m just not. So my goal is just to read books and I’m quite prepared to DNF a book because life is short. I do track what books I read because I have certain goals, but nothing set in stone.

    10. Seahorse*

      Challenges help me with things I should do but don’t enjoy, like exercising. I *want* to read, so putting outside structures on what that looks like is more irritating than fun or useful.

      Not everything needs a numerical goal or some kind of measurable improvement. I just want to read when & what I want. (No shade to anyone who likes challenges! They’re just not for me)

    11. Irish Teacher.*

      I just find them pointless. I read because I want to.

      I remember as a child, people being confused as to why I didn’t participate in reading challenges. I think the highest goal you could choose was significantly less than I read normally anyway. It was partly that that challenge thing required sponsership which seemed like a hassle, but it was also that reading is supposed to be fun. It’s something I do to relax. These challenges almost treat it like work or something, like something you need to be motivated to do rather than something you’d use to motivate yourself, in the sense of “when I have x done, I can have a couple of hours uninterrupted reading.”

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Just to clarify, I mean, I find them pointless for me and have no interest in doing them. If other people find them fun, that’s cool. I’m not criticising them in general.

        I also overthink stuff like that a bit, like if you get a really good book and read it three times in a row, does that count as one or three?

      2. allathian*

        Yes, I also read because I want to. I don’t find challenges motivating in general.

        I’ve always hated the idea that we have to do things to “better ourselves.” I know I should exercise more, but I quit wearing the cheap, horrible smart watch my husband got me because seeing how little I walked in a day didn’t motivate me to walk more, it just made me feel horrible about myself.

    12. Nomnom*

      I really enjoy reading challenges that are a list of different categories to read (usually 24 over a year). It gets me reading more, as I always have my next book lined up, and it keeps things interesting by making me read books I usually wouldn’t. I do the book riot challenge, bu there are others.

    13. Person from the Resume*

      Honestly, no.

      But I barely pay attention to what my number is until GoodReads emails me about it or it’s close to the end of the year so I’m tracking it and it’s not influencing my choices at all.

      I have read some very long books (or listened to very long audiobooks) in recent years. And I’ve definitely gotten better at quitting a book I’m not enjoying.

      That said I got a challenge email reminder fyom Goodreads earlier this year and I’ve read 60 books of my 66 book goal for the year so I’m going to hit my goal easily.

    14. Falling Diphthong*

      I felt extreme hostility toward the summer reading list when my kids were in school. I had to frame it for perfectionist oldest as “Okay, we’re going to write down the first six books, and then we’ll put this away and you can read whatever you want the rest of the time.”

    15. Busy Middle Manager*

      YES. I am reading Bill Bryson The Body and found myself going too quick just to get to the next page. I’m now going slow and actually digesting the information and not focusing on if I only do one page at a time

    16. The OG Sleepless*

      I hate reading challenges of any kind. I refused to participate in summer reading challenges as a kid. I rolled my eyes when my kids had to have me sign off on them reading for X minutes a day in elementary school. I don’t keep lists on Goodreads or anything like that now. I’m a voracious reader but I absolutely refuse to make it into any kind of achievement.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        That “reading for X minutes a day” sounds like a good way to make kids feel like reading is work and therefore turn them off it. Reading should be what you are rushing to get your homework done so you can get to.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          There was a finding with young kids where the researchers took a subgroup who loved to draw with markers and divided them into three groups.
          Group A: Told that if they would color with markers, then they would get stickers.
          Group B: As a surprise, after they colored with markers they were given stickers as an explicit reward for coloring.
          Group C: Just left to get on with their play.

          After this alteration in incentives, both groups A and B colored with markers less than they had before. Only group C kept it up at their previous levels.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this ties to the idea that if you turn your beloved hobby into the thing you MUST do to pay the rent and buy groceries this month, it can become a lot less enjoyable. That you’d be happier as, say, the dude who became a mailman so he’d have set hours and worked on his elaborate woodworking in his off hours.

    17. There You Are*

      I share my Kindle account with a friend who is both retired and housebound, so “my” reading stats are off the charts. I love that it’s a mix of her reading and mine, because then I have no idea what my true stats actually are. :-)

    18. Valancy Stirling*

      *raises hand* I recently deleted my Goodreads for this exact reason. It felt less like a reading log and more like a reading chore.

    19. word nerd*

      It’s been interesting to hear everyone’s thoughts, thanks! I think reading challenges do have their place and can be motivating, but I think it’s not really worthwhile for me since I already read regularly. I probably will still do my local library’s winter reading challenge, which revolves around reading books in different categories, because it helps me expand the sorts of books I try. But I also decided to remove my Goodreads challenge this year and won’t set a new one next year, and we’ll see how this goes!

      1. Jackalope*

        I Will add to this that I’ve participated in a reading challenge with my local library the last few years that involved having a specific number of categories I needed to read books for (comedy, queer love story, over 400 pages, things like that). I enjoy it because it pushes me to read things I wouldn’t have thought of previously, and each year I’ve had some books that I read specifically for the challenge that I never would have picked up otherwise but I really liked. At the same time, I always appreciate when I finish the list of books around August or September and the rest of the year I don’t worry about it.

    20. kalli*

      We had a reading fundraiser in school and instead of setting my goal to ‘more books’ mine got set to ‘more classic books’, ‘more poems’, ‘more nonfiction books’ with much lower goals than ‘200 books a month’ or whatever I was reading when BSC books took 45 minutes and I had nothing else to do. The excuse was so I wouldn’t trick people to donate $5 per book and get caught out with a $1k+ commitment, but it was really helpful for letting me read different kinds of things and not feeling pressured to just read a lot or sit with my favourites over and over.

  13. Teapot Translator*

    I need a power bank (I think? something to charge my phone on the go in my purse). Any recommendations or brands to avoid? If I spend the whole day out, my phone is nearly dead by around 5 p.m.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      If you have an iPhone, I recommend the iWalk portable charger (got mine on Amazon). It plugs directly into my phone so I don’t need to carry around a cable as well (the number of times I have grabbed a charger but not the cable is embarrassing). I do have a couple Anker banks that I use for travel, but the iWalk is great for day to day.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          What model? If it’s a Samsung Galaxy almost all of them come with batteries with an expected 1000 charge cycle lifespan. In other words, if your battery is 3 years old, it’s part of the problem.

          I agree with the recs for an Anker charger, but unless you’re watching a ton of video while out and about – or have bluetooth on all the time, your phone shouldn’t die in less than a day. There may also be varying levels of battery-saver (or data-saver, which generally has knock on usefulness for the battery) that might help. For example, I have a 4 year old Samsung Galaxy S10, and I regularly get about 56 hours battery out of it from full charge to low battery warning.

          1. Teapot Translator*

            It’s an S22. I figured it just came with a bad battery. But I do have Bluetooth enabled, so I’ll disable it to see how it performs. Thanks!

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Anker makes battery packs (they make other stuff too but for the context of this discussion, battery packs). They’re compatible with anything that charges via whatever USB connector the battery pack has. There’s a ton of different models. It’s not OS specific.

    2. Southern Girl*

      Should the battery last longer? Just asking in case the battery in your phone needs replacing.

      1. B*

        Sadly many of the Samsung phones do not have replaceable batteries and are known for their short life.

      2. Teapot Translator*

        This is a relatively new phone and I didn’t have this issue with my old phone, so I just figured this model came with a bad battery.

  14. RMNPgirl*

    Catio recommendations? I want to get my deck screened in but would like something for the interim.
    My cat loves to go outside but a coyote has started hanging out in our neighborhood and has been seen during daylight hours. I do have a harness/leash I’m trying to get her used to but it would be nice to let her out unsupervised in a safe spot.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Honestly with a known coyote in the neighborhood, I’d scrap the catio idea. In our area, we’ve had so many pets killed recently, including a small dog who was pottying with the owner a few feet away.
      A pop up catio isn’t going to do a darn thing, and I’m not sure I’d trust a screened in porch, either.

      1. Anono-me*

        Could you get a small chain link dog run? They make ones with a chain link ceiling for climbers/jumpers. (Depending on the kennel and your yard you might want to get a second top panel and fastened it to the bottom of the kennel to prevent burrowing.)

        1. RMNPgirl*

          I was looking at large chain link chicken coops to see if those would work. I’ll take a look at dog kennels too.

          1. ShinyPenny*

            Chain link dog panels should exclude most dogs and coyotes, IF there’s a panel over the top. But more needs to be done to prevent digging under. You can set it up on a wooden deck or a concrete patio, or on top of hog panels (then layer in gravel or chips for comfort).
            But none of the chain link kennels I’ve had would ever contain a cat-sized animal. The curved corners leave gaps that cats can slip right through. I would need to cover the corners (top and bottom) with hardware cloth to keep a cat in— or raccoons/possums out (which can be a threat to cats, as well).
            Also, it’s good to remember that a catio needs to be built to exclude a motivated coyote (35 pounds?) or neighborhood dog (80 pounds?) NOT just to contain a house cat. So, zip ties and chicken wire aren’t up to the job— coyotes and dogs can chew right through both. And they would happily stand on top of the structure and collapse it as well. There’s too many catio and chicken you-tubes that forget this part! Of course, if you are 100% always there to supervise then ignore all that. It’s just hard to be 100% over the long term, in my experience.

      2. RMNPgirl*

        Why wouldn’t you trust a screened in deck?
        We have woods (conservation easement) behind our houses which is where we think he lives. He’s just been seen cutting through the neighborhood. I think he’s getting enough food, the most recent picture someone got shows him to be healthy.
        I would be surprised if he came into my yard and all the way up to the deck to get my cat. But I’ve never dealt with coyotes before. My cat likes to go up into the wooded area so I want her to be able to go out and at least see and hear the woods but not actually go into them anymore.

        1. GoryDetails*

          Re screened-in deck: I’ve had experience with cats who would go nuts clawing at the screen. The plastic or nylon type didn’t stand a chance, and while the metal screening holds up fairly well the cats could still make holes in it – sometimes got their claws stuck in it, which was its own kind of trauma. (Adding a heavier type of screening – something like hardware cloth, the 1/2-inch-mesh steel kind – might help.) Depending on the cat, though, having a clear view of the outdoors and the possibility of a nose-to-nose confrontation through the screen (with coyotes or other cats or whatever wanders by) could be upsetting; my current cats include a highly-reactive one who’ll go into ballistic redirected aggression at a glimpse of another cat in the yard. (My previous cats didn’t do this, and would have loved floor-level views of the outdoors, so it really does depend on the cat.)

          1. Nicki Name*

            The standard screening for catios I’ve seen around here is the stainless steel mesh, 1/2″ or 1″ spacing.

        2. ShinyPenny*

          It depends on what the screening is? Screened porches aren’t a thing where I live, but I thought they were meant to exclude mosquitos? Which is a completely different task compared to containing cats/dogs, or excluding coyotes/raccoons/possums/dogs. If a cat or dog doesn’t go right through mosquito netting, it’s not because they can’t. It’s because they’ve been socialized to believe that mosquito netting is a barrier. (Mimetic learners FTW!). Wild animals will not have the same belief system.

    2. TPS reporter*

      I like the coop suggestion. I had something built in the basement to keep my cats away from the utility area that is boards and chicken coop fencing. it’s super strong so there’s no way they can destroy it. and it was relatively cheap to construct.

    3. All Monkeys are French*

      I have this one:
      https://www.amazon.com/PawHut-Wooden-Outdoor-Enclosure-Platforms/dp/B078LXDB9N/ref=sr_1_9?keywords=catio&qid=1699116597&sr=8-9&th=1

      It’s been up for nearly six years and while it’s showing some wear, it’s holding up surprisingly well. You would need to secure it to the house or a base to make it sturdy enough to keep out wildlife (mine sits on a deck and is bolted to the house – I have no coyotes in my yard but determined raccoons have scaled it with no damage).

  15. meal replacement suggestions*

    I’m looking for meal replacements (for a friend). She’s tried Boost brand and declared it nasty. So what is the best tasting meal replacement? It isn’t for weight loss, but for a jaw injury. And, lets say that a powder for smoothie only works if the most complicated thing to add is milk. At the moment a “proper smoothie” with fruits and a blender is too hard. … TIA

    1. Gyne*

      This is not a total meal replacement but I like the veggie elite protein powder. I went through a phase where I made a lot of them with blueberries, spinach, and then a sufficient amount of liquid in the blender to make it something that I could drink (not suck through a straw.) I think with protein + spinach + fruit + soy milk/milk/water, that would be fairly close to a “meal?”

      1. Gyne*

        I realize that is more complicated than you requested in your post, sorry! but it literally was throwing a few handfuls of stuff in a blender, splashing the liquid in, and blending. not a lot of measuring other than the scoop in the powder tub.

    2. Sitting Pretty*

      Too hard in that they don’t have enough spoons/energy/ability to stand to make a smoothie in the blender? Or too hard in that their jaw issues won’t allow for a chunkier, thicker smoothie?

      1. meal replacement suggestions*

        Too hard in that cleaning the blender is too much work. My friend is full-time caregiver for two people with very different needs, and washing something that isn’t a plate is a spoon too far.

        1. Ginger Cat Lady*

          I clean my blender by filling it halfway with water and running it immediately after I empty it. And then put in the dishwasher.
          Maybe that will help?

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Fairlife protein shakes aren’t too bad. They are shelf stable and I can get them at my local Target (in the aisle with supplements and nutritional support).

    4. RMNPgirl*

      Premier protein is pretty good. It’s not an official meal replacement but it’ll work for what’s going on. They come already mixed and just need some shaking before drinking. Like most protein shakes they taste best cold.

      1. Professor Plum*

        I actually prefer mine at room temp—or in cold weather I’ll heat a chocolate shake up to substitute for a cup of hot chocolate.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yep, I got through a couple of dental surgeries on these and still keep them on hand for quick breakfast. They’re in 4-packs at regular grocery and big box stores but in 18-packs (much more cost effective) at Costco. I stick with chocolate but my husband also likes the cafe latte flavor.

    5. Aerin*

      Does she like soups? If so, would blended soups bought at the grocery store, diluted with some water/broth in a cup, and then consumed like a savoury smoothie help out? Maybe while she’s looking for something designed as a meal-replacement, but also maybe instead of a bottled meal-replacement?

      Diluted blended soup one of my gotos, and for the kinds of soups I like: they taste good cold as long as they’re the right consistency and in a cup. For me, whether I heat it up or eat it straight from the fridge is mostly based on what will feel better that day and what equipment I have. I generally don’t tell people that’s what I’m doing because somehow “cold soup” (that isn’t gazpacho or meant to be consumed cold) sounds gross, but I want her to know that heating it up is a step she can skip if it uses too many spoons and it can still taste good. All blended soups need to be diluted for me to drink them, and then I just dilute them a little more if I’m going to drink it cold because the heat does affect the consistency.

      If she has an immersion blender and finds it easier for her to clean than a full blender (or if someone can lend her one to test it out), that will also open up a lot more soup options. And if she has a group of friends who would do some cooking for the next little while, it’s useful for her to know if she can eat most soups after blending and diluting them. I think I’ve only done chicken noodle in a regular blender so I’m not sure if they’d work with an immersion blender, but my immersion blender is 30 years old and I use it for chunky soups like minestrone all the time.

      I hope she finds something she likes quickly and that her recovery process goes easier than expected. It’s hard when suddenly you can’t fuel yourself easily.

    6. RLC*

      Muscle Milk was the only tolerable product in this category for me during recovery from oral surgery. Bought by the case from Costco.

    7. AnonRN*

      It might not yield tastier results but if possible, your friend should work with a doctor and dietician if this is a long-term (more than a week) issue. Things like Boost/Ensure/Carnation breakfast don’t necessarily replace all meals in terms of long-term nutrition, especially since each brand makes several products with vastly different nutritional profiles. Also if a dietician can make a recommendation your friend *may* be able to get a prescription which could be covered by insurance?

      For short-term use, all of those shakes taste better cold! She could whisk in some ice cream (soften it by letting it sit out first) or peanut butter to alter the taste if the whisk isn’t too hard to clean.

      1. Clisby*

        I found Ensure (cafe mocha) to be the most tolerable in taste. It’s sweeter than I’d like, so sometimes I add in a few ounces of black coffee to temper that – but it doesn’t have that weird chalky taste like Muscle Milk and some others. I get the one with 30 grams of protein.

        1. Screw loose*

          I second Ensure! When I had jaw surgery, my diet consisted of Boost, Ensure, whole milk, ice cream, and then anything my mom could throw in a blender. I was 19 and underweight (jaw pain) so I needed a ton of calories and our balanced meals were not enough. I did prefer the Ensure to the Boost, though.

    8. Pam Adams*

      I like Carnation Instant Breakfast- add milk, shake up. It has about 13 grams of protein, not counting the milk. I dislike most meal replacements/protein drinks- to me, they have an aftertaste.

    9. Too Many Cats*

      I like to use Ensure Clear – it’s much less nasty than the “milky” versions, and kind of almost tastes like juice. I drink them when I am having a Crohn’s flare.

      I also enjoy Carnation Breakfast Essentials of looking for a more milky version, and you mix yourself so can make as thick/thin as you like (I think there are also premixed versions if that’s perferred)

    10. Deuceofgears*

      Long shot that worked for me: those “pour boiling water into the pouch, stir, wait for five minutes, stir, wait for four more minutes” camping meals? And then you toss the pouch into the trash. I like the ones from Mountain House, but looking up some reviews of camping meals would probably give you some leads, and they seem to now have a bunch of different cuisines and options in the stew-ish family (chicken casserole, beef stew, biscuits & gravity). You could probably make some of the offerings a little more liquidy by just adding more water. (I used an electric kettle.) Different reason, but my health was so destroyed I could not even handle being upright continuously long enough to make fried eggs, and a lot of other low-effort meal options were ruled out for complicated reasons I won’t get into here, so the camping meals were a godsend. They are also MUCH nicer now than the one MRE I tried 20+ years ago.

    11. WellRed*

      Does carnation still make its instant breakfast! I think that was basically add powder to milk or water and stir.

      1. AnonRN*

        Kate Farms is definitely in the category of “you should be under care of a doctor if you’re relying on this for full nutrition support,” IMHO. If nothing else, it’s such a dramatic change from most people’s normal diet that there will be GI effects for. sure. I’ve given it as tube feeding (can’t taste it) but every patient I’ve given it to as an oral supplement has hated the taste. It’s also expensive (so if a doctor does prescribe it at least you might be able to get it paid for).

    12. 00ff00Claire*

      I like the OWYN brand “shakes” – they are similar to Boost or Carnation Instant Breakfast. They are sweetened with monk fruit, I think, so to me they are extra sweet, but otherwise I like the flavor for a packaged drink. I drank Carnation Instant Breakfast in college and you can get it as a mix or ready to drink. That one tasted just like chocolate milk to me.

    13. Rage*

      I am in love with the Atkins shakes. They are the best-tasting, IMO, not chalky or gritty. They have a variety of flavors. 200 calories per serving. But she could boost that up with ice cream to make a real milkshake.

      1. Esprit de l'escalier*

        I agree that Atkins shakes taste good. I relied on them and Pedialyte during the more fatigued can’t-cook-not-hungry phase of having Covid recently. But I don’t know how much nutritional value there would be in long-term use, as I assume you’re not getting the equivalent of fruits and vegetables.

        1. Rage*

          True, but this is for a jaw injury – which will presumably heal in about 2 months or so? She could add that veggie powder mentioned above to round things out a bit. But on the whole, she’s going to lose out on some nutrition if she’s restricted to this, but I wouldn’t think it would be too terrible for just 8-10 weeks.

    14. Distractable Golem*

      Premier Protein. In general with meal replacements, chocolate is more palatable than vanilla and they are better when cold.

    15. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I love Kachava for this! A bit expensive at $65 per bag but it’s a big bag and lots of goodness in it.

    16. Cardboard Marmalade*

      If you have access to an Asian* grocery store, there are a lot of varieties of powdered grain-based breakfast gruels (think instant oatmeal, but ground to a fine powder) that are actually really good, and you basically just add hot water until it’s the consistency you want. Many have various beans in the ingredients, so there’s protein in there too.

      *I’ve found them in Chinese and Korean groceries, but also a local Vietnamese shop. haven’t usually noticed then in Indian grocery stores, though.

    17. Anonymous Koala*

      The Fairlife core protein shakes taste great! 26g of protein, 170 cals or something like that. I’m not great at eating breakfast, so these are really nice for low effort calories/protein.

    18. Samwise*

      Carnation instant breakfast. Probably more sugar than the meal replacements, but tastes pretty good. Since it’s for a short time, could be ok even if it’s not as healthy.

      My husband has to have meal replacements to supplement— ensure is ok, could also try some store brands. He has a couple every day, so we get what’s on sale

    19. A Minion*

      My husband loves Huel as a meal replacement. He may add additional protein powder. He mixes it in a shake canister with a spring ‘ball’ which can all go into the dishwasher

    20. SuprisinglyADHD*

      Carnation instant breakfast is just add milk. They tend to have a lot of sugar though, depending on your friend’s needs they might make a good treat if they don’t want too much sugar regularly.

    21. 00ff00Claire*

      This is not a meal replacement, but Campbell’s sells tomato soup in a drinkable container. They call it Microwavable Sipping Soup. I bet a straw could fit into the little hole in the lid, or your friend could leave the lid off if they need a straw. It wouldn’t have as much protein as the meal replacement shakes, but if they also want something savory and warm it could be an easy option.

  16. Leonard*

    I’m looking for resources on how to talk about emotional issues with someone who has autism.

    I have a good friendship with someone who is high-fumctioning with autism. There isn’t a diagnosis but he has every symptom. When discussing anything vaguely emotional, even when I say “I really appreciate how kind and supportive you are being during a difficult time”, he visibly stiffens up and doesn’t want to talk. It’s worse when times are hard and he’s upset or sad, because he shuts down completely and becomes defensive. I recently found out that he does this with others and another friend suggested this reaction could be due to autism, where he doesn’t know how to deal with emotions other than avoidance. I don’t want to fix my friend, I’m more hoping to find resources on how to better understand adults with autism so that I can communicate better. At the least it is useful to know that the negativity and avoidance wasn’t something we were doing wrong and that has helped the few of us who have talked about it together.

    I have looked online and what I have found tells me that we’re likely right, but almost all resources were focused on young kids who can’t control their emotions. I’m not sure if what I’m looking for exists, but this group seems more likely than anywhere else given the collective intelligence and experience!

    1. RagingADHD*

      Have you considered maybe respecting his boundaries and not trying to force him to talk about emotional stuff when it clearly makes him uncomfortable? The fact that he doesn’t want to have those conversations *with you* doesn’t mean he is incapable of having them, nor does it mean he needs some kind of amateur intervention.

      Frankly, the idea that your friend group is sitting around analyzing his behavior and trying to diagnose him is shitty. Doubly so because none of you appear to actually know anything about neurodivergence in real life.

      The reason there aren’t resources for social connections to attempt to diagnose and therapize adults without their consent, is because that is not appropriate or respectful of his own agency. I presume he’s an intelligent person who knows that therapy exists. If he believes that his aversion to discussing emotions with you is a problem, he can seek help for it himself.

      Perhaps it would do you good to read some of the resources for parents of children with differences, because the better ones start by challenging the parent to differentiate things that are a problem *for the child* or meet the child’s needs, versus things that merely make the parent comfortable and serve the parent’s wants / needs at the child’s expense. That exercise would do all of you good, it sounds like.

      If his withdrawal from people when he’s upset, or his reaction to casual mentions of feelings (as in your example of expressing appreciation) make it difficult to maintain your friendship, feel free to bring that up directly. But again, whether or not he perceives that as a problem that he wants to address is up to him. He may be content to let the friendship go instead.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        As someone who does not have emotional conversations with most people – 100% all of this, thank you.

      2. I'm ND*

        Seconding this.

        Leonard, I can’t tell from your post if your friend self-diagnoses as autistic, or if you and your friend group have diagnosed him among yourselves. If it’s the latter, that’s not great in terms of respecting your friend’s agency and privacy. (I speak as an ND person here, who negotiates diagnosis, identity, and relationship on a regular basis with both professional and personal acquaintances.)

        I’m also not convinced that your friend is reluctant to talk about emotions *because* they’re autistic, which leans into stereotypes that autistic people are non-empathetic or robotic. In fact, some autistic people are hyper-empathetic; and autistic people experience the same range of emotions as NT people. Some people, ND or NT, just don’t like to talk about their emotions.

        You asked for resources to learn about adult autism, though, and that’s a great ask –– learning more, *especially* from folks who are autistic, is always a good move. Here’s a few that helped me:
        The Loudest Girl in the World (podcast)
        Autistic at 40 (podcast)
        The Electricity of Every Living Thing (book)
        Authoring Autism (academic book)

        1. Leonard*

          Thank you so much for these links!

          I wasn’t sure how much to write, and clearly missed out on some key helpful details, sorry about that. I think your comment and others about whether the cause is related to autism has been very helpful. I wasn’t sure if it was related to autism, but through reading and researching more I’ll hopefully better understand and be able to untangle that. I would also describe myself as ND, and I thought it would be straightforward to ask for resources although clearly misjudged how I explained it! I am also taking this overall experience as an opportunity to try and learn more myself about ND and emotions as it may be helpful to me (similar to my friend I very rarely get emotional, but when I do it is hard for me to control although I become avoidant rather than angry).

          The friend is also a roommate and says that he can talk to me better than anyone else so I’m not pushing him to talk about emotional things, rather when he goes through difficult times I can’t avoid him and want to better support him.

      3. Rachel*

        A lot of the messaging around neurodiversity instructs neurotypical people to do their own research and learn effective communication techniques without asking the neurodivergent person for a step-by-step guide. This is meant to alleviate the burden of the neurodivergent person of instructing people how to handle them.

        I think the OP is following that advice, which clearly landed them in hot water with you. I hope this context and perspective helps this conversation

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          That’s interesting, ’cause what I’ve generally heard in autistic spaces has been quite different, that any information on autism that comes from people who are not autistic should be considered suspect. I’m not doubting what you have heard, since obviously there are a lot of people with autism and other neurodivergencies and all have different opinions, but personally, I don’t think I’ve ever heard an autistic person say, “if you want to know how to communicate with us, go and research it yourself rather than asking us,” so I guess it’s something there are very different opinions on.

          I have heard the advice to research things yourself rather than asking members of the group to explain basic stuff about many other marginalised groups, but it’s not something I’ve ever heard an autistic person say about autism. Again, I believe that there are some autistic people who would prefer NTs do that, but…I think it is at least very much debated and definitely not something consistently said, as I follow a lot of autistic sites and have never heard it.

          I also think it depends a bit on what you are asking. This isn’t something anybody can really give a step-by-step guide to as we don’t know the person in question and we don’t even know if he is autistic, but even if he is, just as you can’t say how an NT will want to discuss emotions, you can’t say how somebody with autism would.

          I don’t think Leonard is wrong for asking us for advice because it’s a hard thing to discuss with the person themself – “hey, how do you want us to address emotional issues?” and it will probably depend on the issue anyway. And this site seems to have a reasonable number of autistic commenters, so it’s not a bad place to ask about it. But I do think that whether the friend is NT or autistic, respecting his boundaries is good advice. If he doesn’t like discussing emotional issues, the obvious answer is to lean more on other friends when one needs emotional support

        2. RagingADHD*

          Except you seem to have missed the point, which is that OP has no idea whether their friend is actually ND or not.

          They made up an autism diagnosis out of whole cloth based on some stuff they read online, because they have decided he isn’t conducting the friendship in the way they want or expect. And you are accepting that as if it’s real, for some reason.

          The friend might withdraw for entirely different reasons — trauma, or anxiety, all kinds of things that aren’t autism. OP is not qualified to figure that out, and more importantly, the friend has not asked them to! An adult, with full agency, who didn’t ask to be analyzed or for help “improving” the friendship or their communication.

          Or, you know, it could be that the friend has no underlying issues and is choosing to keep the OP and their group at a bit of arm’s length as a deliberate choice. It is entirely possible that the friend would write a version of this story that goes:

          “I have this friend group that is weirdly intrusive and insistent that they think I should emote more and turn to them first when I’m upset. But like, we’re not really that close and they gossip a lot, so they are not my first choice as confidantes. Now they are starting to treat me differently, like they think I have some kind of disability. I have really enjoyed hanging out with them in the past, but I really don’t like this new dynamic at all.

          Should I try to address it? If so, how? Or should I just cut them loose?”

        3. kalli*

          Where this messaging exists, it’s for basic information that applies to everyone or is theoretical – things like “what is autism”, “what is neurodivergence”, “how do I make a workplace safe for people who are autistic”.

          When it comes to individual and individuals in situations, we need people to ask us, let us answer, and respect our answers. The “how do I make a workplace safe” question will involve individualisation and flexible solutions because everyone has different symptoms and needs, and the safer workplace allows people to ask for accommodations beyond what is given as a matter of course without having to broadcast their diagnosis across the entire organisation. The safer workplace also does not provide accommodations or prescribe workflows solely because someone is believed to be neurodiverse, because those may not actually be what someone needs, because the default should be to treat people the same regardless of anything unless they specifically request otherwise, and because treating people differently based on a presumed medical diagnosis is discrimination on the grounds of disability.

          This case is a situation between individuals, one of whom identifies as ND and one who may or may not be autistic, but whose friend group assumes he is. The ideal way to navigate it is for nobody to assume anything and just ask the person concerned how they want to handle stuff, and accept the answer – and also that they may need time to put together that answer, or negotiate a balance if the answer poses significant challenges or obstacles, which ‘I don’t want to talk about this, let me have time in my own house where I can not think about this and do other stuff so it’s not in my head 24/7 and I’m not bringing this into my safe space’ doesn’t.

    2. Autistic with two dogs*

      Have you made this “high-functioning with autism diagnosis” or does your friend self-identify as autistic?

      Also, I am confused by “what I have found tells me that we’re likely right”…..right about what?

      I suggest that you google “the double empathy problem” and do some reflecting on your own role in communication with your friend. Because it sounds like you’re looking for the “autistic way” to get your friend to be comfortable talking about feelings and having these conversations with you when what your friend is communicating right now is that he doesn’t want to.

      If you truly want to understand autistic people, spend some time on Twitter on the #actuallyautistic hashtag. You will find actually autistic people talking about their experiences and will find links to resources. Also, if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person – we are all individuals and there isn’t one magical way that we all communicate.

      And “high-functioning autism” is a phrase to avoid using. Modern diagnosis focuses on support needs, not on the vague and difficult to define “functioning”. A lot of autistic people mask and camouflage and appear to be “high-functioning”, but the mental energy that’s required to do so can lead to burnout.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      This doesn’t actually sound all that much like autism? Its not that I would rule it out, it’s just that shutting down emotionally can have so many different reasons behind it. I’m not a clinician myself, but a big part of my job as a special education teacher is to refer students who aren’t coping for diagnosis.. If I saw these behaviours in a student this would be classed as a mental health concern over an autism concern. I would be more inclined to suspect it if I saw something more specific to autism like an attachment to routines, or overly literal interpretation of language. The good news is he’s an adult and this is for him to solve! As for how to interact with autistic people, it’s a really good question in that it’s usually good practice to check in with everyone, about their comfort. Autistic people like clear communication and being asked how they would like various situations handled even more than most of us. I would say you’ve noticed him experiencing discomfort and ask if there’s anything you could do differently in future to make him feel more comfortable when dealing with emotional conversations.

      1. Leonard*

        I really appreciate this, thank you so much! I didn’t mention at first that he’s also my roommate and has said that he finds it easier to talk with me than anyone else, so I’m not trying to be pushy but rather want to see if I can make things easier for both of us. I have thought about suggesting he get therapy but didn’t know if that was unreasonable to suggest, and wrote my question here hoping that I could improve our relationship with some research. As with many things in life, I think that in this case therapy will likely be helpful. Thank you for helping me to realize this!

    4. UKDancer*

      It sounds like he doesn’t want to talk about emotional issues. A lot of people don’t. I mean I prefer not to except with one particular friend who is very emotionally intelligent.

      Some friends are the people you have that discussion with and others aren’t. My parents have one friend who hates talking about feelings (his or theirs) and is the stereotypical repressed upper class Englishman. So when my father had cancer he was no use for discussing it, but got my mother to and from hospital when she was too upset to drive, brought her tupperwares of stew on a regular basis to spare her from having to cook and took dad out for country walks when he was convalescing so he could get fresh air. He was a tower of practical support and strength but would hate having to be an emotional support person.

      Maybe stop trying to discuss feelings with him and concentrate on the things you enjoy doing and that make him a good friend. It sounds to me like you want him to do something he’s not capable of comfortably doing. People are what they are and you can’t make them be otherwise.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        Your comment about “stereotypical repressed upper class Englishman….[who] was a tower of practical support and strength” got me teary-eyed. Your parents were fortunate to have him as a friend. (The poor fellow would probably faint if he were to read this.)

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes he is rather great and we all love him dearly (although he’d hate us to mention it and doesn’t like anything that’s too emotional or touchy-feely including opera, excessive enthusiasm or physical contact). I’ve no idea if he’s neuro-diverse or just old Etonian but we accept that he’s not the person you’d go to for a hug or a vent, but he would do anything for you that you said you need.

          He’s also witty and intelligent company so we accept him as he is and don’t ask him for more than he can give and we think we’re lucky he’s in our lives.

    5. Anon. Scientist*

      seconding that just because someone shuts down under stress doesn’t mean they’re autistic. It’s totally normal to have different reactions to stress. Just like people may have involuntary flight/fight/freeze/fawn reactions under extreme duress. And it’s ironic that you’ve decided that this person is nonstandard when for decades in the US, shutting down under stress was what most men were supposed to do.

      I am a very in touch with feelings sort of person and I am pretty clear about what it is I want, emotionally, and when upset the last thing I want is someone hovering and getting into my emotional space.

      1. Leonard*

        I didn’t conclude that the shutting down under stress implies autism and if what I wrote gives that impression then I am very sorry! Rather I had always assumed that his autism and reaction to stress were separate things, and lately I have been wondering if they could be linked because that would give me more resources to support him. Based on the responses here I’m probably wrong about them being linked, but I’ll read up more and hopefully better understand autism overall.

    6. Irish Teacher.*

      This strikes me as an example of the double empathy problem. Autistic people and NTs communicate differently. Neither is better or worse but it means they often misunderstand each other.

      I wouldn’t asssume he doesn’t know how to deal with emotions. It’s quite likely he is dealing just fine with emotions, but he expresses them differently to how you do, so it seems to you like he is not dealing with them. It is even quite possible that he thinks the same about you and your other friends – that ye are struggling with emotions and unable to deal with them because you deal with them differently than the way that he finds effective. He may well think that ye are discussing emotions more than he is because ye struggle more than he does and don’t have good coping skills. That’s where the double empathy problem comes in; both people misunderstanding the other.

      It’s good that you want to communicate better with him and that you recognise the problem is communication between you and not that either ye or him is doing anything wrong and I would recommend checking out the double empathy problem if you haven’t already researched it. But the goal should not be to get him to deal with his emotions in an NT way. Unless he has expressed that he finds dealing with emotions difficult, you shouldn’t assume he needs any help with them. The goal should be to have conversations that are comfortable for all of you, so that you and others get to discuss emotions when you need to but in a way that does not make him uncomfortable.

      1. Leonard*

        Thank you, I will look that up! I definitely don’t want him to deal with his emotions in an NT way. We’re roommates and I want to be able to communicate better about unavoidable emotional issues.

    7. Anon. Scientist*

      My long response got eaten but I feel so strongly about this that I’m trying again.

      There is a whole range of normal reactions to stress, and emotional withdrawal is not only bog standard, it was the socially required reaction for whole social classes and most men for ages.

      You’ll have to take my word for this, but I’m a sensitive, highly socially aware and very friendly person. But the more stress I’m under, the less tolerance I have for emotionally intrusive people. And it’s totally OK! I’m an introvert! I don’t need to excavate my feelings with outsiders, I’m quite aware of what’s going on.

      1. UKDancer*

        I agree and I’m an extrovert. I am just very picky who I talk to about feelings.

        I had one colleague at work who always wanted to talk about feelings and “share.” She kept asking how I was feeling when I split up with my ex and it just made me want to curl up into a prickly ball because it felt intrusive and prodding. In contrast my grumpy, socially awkward boss patted me on the shoulder and said if I wanted to talk he was there and bought me my favourite over-priced coffee every morning that week and just put it on my desk without a word. His approach worked a lot better and made me feel safe and supported.

        1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

          Aw, I like your boss — it’s like you had Lou Grant there with you.

      2. Leonard*

        Thanks, I’m similar to my friend in many ways including emotional withdrawal but he also becomes irritable whereas I’m avoidant, and we also happen to be roomates so I can’t avoid him forever. I didn’t want to mention too much of this because I don’t want to make this into a complicated discussion that is inappropriate for weekends, I was only hoping to find some info to research in order to see if I could better understand and communicate with my friend.

    8. I heart Paul Buchman*

      I have a few autistic people in my life. No two of them handle emotions the same way. I think the best way to understand your friend is to ask them and then listen (and trust) their response.

      My son likes to process big emotions on his own and then share them with others in a managed, safe way. That sounds a little like what you describe? I’ve had to learn to set my own feelings about this aside and trust him to work his process. He’ll rarely discuss things with me before he has them settled in his own mind. Demanding he do otherwise would feel egotistical to me – it’s icky to assume autistic people need someone (an N-T?) to help them emote or to understand themselves.

      I think that looking for resources to understand a friend’s processing (without their knowledge?) feels a bit… enmeshed? I’m sure you mean well and love your friend but physician heal thyself is my response.

    9. kina lillet*

      Yah, I think you’re unlikely to find guides per se. The best expert on being friends with your friend, is probably your friend.

      I think it’s a lovely insight that you and your friend have kind of different terms of friendship. I’d say, try to avoid making judgments about what he can and can’t do—my autistic friends are actually pretty interested in and capable of emotional conversations—but do keep paying attention to what he’s telling you. Ie, “I just don’t want to talk about X.”

      The whole “love language” thing isn’t like…broadly valid…but it may help to remember that he is just Anti Words. Is he good to spend time with? (I hope so, haha!) Maybe he supports you by spending time with you, and you can support him by spending time side by side with him when he needs your support.

      1. Leonard*

        Thank you for this. Your comment and others have helped me understand that his emotional reaction may not be linked to being ND, although at first I hoped it might be because I’m ND myself and deal with emotions through research and avoidance. It will be useful for me to read through the links and suggestions that have been offered, and at the very least I expect to learn more about myself!

    10. Sharkbait*

      You say you’re not trying to treat or change your friend and only seeking out ways to better understand and communicate. The best way to do this is (1) respect his boundaries when he prefers to keep an emotional distance rather than labeling that as something wrong or bad; (2) just change your communication to another topic or give him space when he doesn’t want to engage with you on a particular subject.

      I know this isn’t your intention but it comes across as condescending and passive aggressive when you tell him “I really appreciate how kind and supportive you are being during a difficult time” when it sounds like he’s doing the opposite by shutting down. He’s not being kind or supportive when he is engaged in avoidance. Don’t put a judgment value on that as bad or wrong; and just accept this is something he does to protect himself.

      1. Despachito*

        I understood she really did mean it and that she genuinely wanted to thank him for what he did for her.

        I think a lot of commenters, while they give precious insight to several aspects, are being pretty hars to OP, who seems to be struggling trying to find how to communicate with her friend for him to be OK with it, and for HER to be OK with it too. A lot of people would not bother or even notice the friend is not at ease, and I think her empathy deserves better responses.

        I also think, as several of you said, that the best thing would be to ask her friend directly. Each of us is different, and he is the most qualified to give her the answer she needs.

        If I were her, I would be torn between the need to respect my friend’s boundaries and MY OWN need to convey to him the information that he is helping me a lot and I am aware of it. (This is because I myself would need this appreciation if the roles were reversed, and would be pretty miffed if I thought someone is taking my help for granted and never expresses that it is really helping. )

        This could be worth discussing with him too, if possible. I’d say “You have been helping me a lot recently, and I wanted you to know it means a lot for me. However, I can see it makes you uneasy, and of course I do not want that. Is there a different way you want me to handle it?”

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          But then the OP should just ask, “how can I better communicate with my friend” rather than, “how can I get my friend to do something I know he is very uncomfortable with because I want him to?” right? To your last paragraph, the OP made it pretty clear this tactic would make their friend very uncomfortable. Is that the goal? Does the friend really need to spell it out or can OP take the very overt clues that the different way the friend wants OP to ‘handle it’ is to not dig like this. “Hey thanks for doing that” is perfectly fine. The need to communicate it more passionately, or whatever, is serving the OP and not the friend.

          1. Rachel*

            NT people are consistently told not to asked ND people how to best interact because that puts the heavy lifting, so to speak, on the ND person.

            I think the OP may have also received that message and was following it, hence the question here, where they are getting dragged.

            1. I heart Paul Buchman*

              I just asked my (autistic) family member about this and they found it nonsensical. Who else would know? Assuming you can use some sort of general template is just putting all autistic people in a big bucket and making assumptions.

              My feeling is that sometimes there are very vocal commentators online who present their point of view (NT people should educate themselves – without putting it onto ND people [how?]) and this then becomes an internet LAW that gets trotted out in every circumstance, even those far removed from the original. Sure, don’t ask your autistic colleague how best to interact with your cousin’s new girlfriend, but it’s probably fine to briefly check in with whether that colleague would prefer meeting questions emailed in advance.

              1. Rachel*

                I am trying to give a perspective and context for why the OP might not be asking their friend directly, and how this impulse isn’t coming from a bad place.

                It sounds like the OP is doing the best they can with the information they have so far. Some correction on that is appropriate but the responds here go beyond correction and into admonishment, which I think is rude.

                1. Leonard*

                  In hindsight I’m not sure if I should have explained more, less, or not asked. I couldn’t really explain everything about our friendship and ended up with some strong responses, but they are mostly fair given the little that I shared.

                  I work to take the criticisms as a learning experience, in part because I’m ND and sometimes struggle with how to talk about emotions so it might end up helping me as much as my friend!

                2. kalli*

                  I think we understand Leonard isn’t being mean. It’s just that this isn’t the kind of thing that we refer to the great internet because it’s an individual question and answer, not a broadly applicable one or a background one. The concept of ‘educate thyself’ comes with ‘and then ask me better questions or how you can help me personally’, not ‘and then magically be perfect’ because it covers ‘what is this’ and ‘why are people’. It’s also language that comes out of the racism conversation, where the questions have settled historically informed answers, and behaviour that needs to change because of the answers are actually within the general realm of the majority to change, and to change across the board, rather than in the realm of individual interpersonal relationships like this situation. There is no history of how autism and mainstream education haven’t always worked well together or best practices for accessible buildings or gold standard neutral hiring processes that will answer ‘how do I talk to my friend or be ok with them not unpacking their trauma with me’.

              2. 1LFTW*

                This.

                There are as many ways of being ND as there are ND people. None of us appreciate others deciding what our needs and preferences are in advance.

                And honestly? There are so many crappy, inaccurate, harmful resources out there that every self-disclosed autistic person I’ve met has been happy to, at the very least, share which sources of information to *avoid*.

              3. Despachito*

                This, this, this.

                The trick is that OP’s friend is a specific person (who may or may not be autistic), and there is no general information that could magically explain his behavior.

                I hate the argument of “it is totally up to you to educate yourself and then magically pull perfect behavior from your sleeve ” – it is such a fallacy. Although as all fallacies there is some truth to it, it always boils down to the specific person’s wishes and needs.

                If they are FRIENDS, there should be a way for them to discuss it. (“It was important for me at the moment to show appreciation but I can see it made you uncomfortable, how do you want it handled?”)

                I probably am on the spectrum (never diagnosed but I meet a lot of criteria) and find the idea that someone would learn something from other sources and draw decisions about me without asking me deeply insulting.

        2. Leonard*

          Your second paragraph is more insightful than you might realize! My friend has told me numerous times over the years that he can talk to me better than any other friend, yet it can often be a hard discussion for me. The one example I used isn’t the best one, just the most recent and also when I found out that he responds the same way with others. He is often irritable when emotional, and I was hopeful that our communication might be something that I can improve with research (because I’ve often relied on research to better understand emotions) so that it would be less stressful for both of us. Several comments here have suggested the emotional response is likely more complicated and that’s probably true. I’ve found the responses to be helpful for which I am very thankful, and in hindsight I regret asking in a way that caused people to feel negatively but at the least I’ve taken a lot from the responses and will plan to be better because of them.

          1. Despachito*

            “My friend has told me numerous times over the years that he can talk to me better than any other friend, yet it can often be a hard discussion for me. ”

            Do you mean that he says “I am better in talking to you than any other friend, albeit it can often be a hard discussion for you”, or rather “I am more comfortable talking to you than to any other friend” and you add that it is still difficult for you?

            I read it first as the former, and it seemed pretty entitled from him, then after reading your other comments I realized that you may mean the latter.

    11. Rage*

      It might be that “I really appreciate how kind and supportive you are being during a difficult time” is really just too much to process, especially if he is already struggling himself.

      You might try simpler phrases – maybe just a simple “Thank you”. Granted, it doesn’t have the nuance that you are going for, but even with somebody who is high functioning, they may not be grasping the nuance anyway.

    12. Unkempt Flatware*

      this all reads like a parent trying to figure out how to interact with their autistic child. This is a peer, right? Back way way off. I do not allow touching of any sort. I also do not like anything remotely “smushy” like what you’ve just described and if a “friend” tried pushing me like this, I’d be out.

    13. sulky-anne*

      If your friend doesn’t self-identify as autistic, please avoid making assumptions and diagnosing him with others behind his back. That would likely make him very uncomfortable if he knew.

      The only thing that I think is a near universally helpful way to approach connecting with autistic people (speaking as one myself) is to try to communicate straightforwardly. If you get the sense that your friend doesn’t like talking about emotional stuff, you can just ask him if he’s okay with talking about it or not.

      It is possible that he doesn’t like talking about emotions–it is also possible that he only talks about them with certain people, or that he’s feeling drained from constantly getting vented at, or that he needs some time to reflect before he can answer. Who knows! If he is autistic, that is mostly relevant in the sense that you may be misinterpreting his body language and tone.

      It wouldn’t hurt for you to educate yourself on autism anyway, but as with anyone, I’m sure your friend would most appreciate being treated as an individual.

      1. Leonard*

        Thanks for your response. I agree that ND folks are diverse and individuals, and am used to communicating straightforwardly. My friend has said that he finds it easier to talk to me than other friends. In this case I was hopeful to find a way to better help my friend and roommate when he’s struggling to communicate, but several people here have mentioned that it’s likely not related and not something where research will help me. Still, I look forward to educating myself more on autism because I always find it helpful to learn more about ND.

        1. Coconutty*

          I’m really curious, because it’s now been raised by multiple commenters and you haven’t addressed it. You said that your friend is not actually diagnosed as autistic. Does he believe himself to be neurodiverse, or is this an assumption that you and others are making?

    14. JubJubTheIguana*

      Honestly separate any possible diagnosis from his comfort level/boundaries in the friendship.

      I’m diagnosed autistic and my loved one is undiagnosed but almost certainly autistic, and we have deeply emotional conversations all the time. I don’t like that stereotype, I don’t think it’s true.

      However, I’m sure there are people who find me very standoffish and loath to discuss emotional things and they probably attribute it to my autism, when actually it’s just me being a relatively private person and not feeling that level of relationship or connection with those particular people. I’m very very emotional and I like talking about emotional things but only with very close friends.

      1. Leonard*

        Thank you for your response. He has mentioned that he finds it easier to talk with me than any of his other friends, and yet he can sometimes struggle with me and he’s my roommate so I want to make things better for both of us. I’m also ND and over the years have had to learn about emotions in others so was hoping that I could improve this situation with research, but you and others have made a good point that they likely aren’t connected. Thank you for your insight.

        1. kalli*

          He may noy be struggling with you so much as how to phrase/express/frame things. Sometimes time and space help with that.

    15. Nancy*

      Don’t diagnose other people. Talking about emotional topics is hard for many people regardless of whether or not they have autism, and shutting down during times of stress is also a common reaction for many people. He doesn’t want to talk about these topics, respect that. And again, don’t try to diagnose others.

    16. MeepMeep123*

      Autistic person here. Your friend is communicating very clearly with you. He’s communicating to you that he does not want to talk about his emotions with you. Whether it’s because he is autistic or because he is very private or because he had a traumatic childhood, the end result is that he does not want to talk about his emotions. Don’t push him. You’re not his therapist, you’re not his parent, and it’s not your job to “fix” him.

      The greatest gift you can give a neurodivergent person is to accept them for who they are, the way they are. Not as a “project” in need of fixing, not as someone who is not entirely “correct” but who can be corrected to “normality” – as a whole person who is accepted just the way they are.

  17. Avery*

    This might be silly, but I wanted to share with y’all that I had an AAM-centered dream recently!
    In the dream, a newly-minted manager was being pressured by her boss to get the employees on her team, all office workers, to repaint the walls of the office one weekend. But the question wasn’t about whether that was a good idea in the first place, but whether she would be best served by encouraging the employees to do this extra work via things like extra PTO or pizza parties, as the new manager wanted to do, or whether to instead use threats of PIPs or even firing if they don’t comply, like grandboss preferred.
    In the dream, Alison pointed out the obvious: that however you try to encourage them, a team of office workers are both unlikely to want to paint an office and unsuited to do so in a safe and professional manner, and they needed to just hire some professional painters and call it a day.
    Also Alison started the response with “What on earth.”
    Not sure whether to be surprised that AAM has infiltrated my subconscious that deeply, or proud that even in my dreams, I know Alison well enough to anticipate her cutting through the nonsense and giving legitimate work advice, even if the question-asker might not want to hear it!

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      This is amusing me, because a group of my colleagues and I did stay late after work one time to paint the school library. It was completely voluntary, but still…the sort of thing that probably wouldn’t happen in most industries. It was mostly the English department who volunteered, which I guess isn’t that surprising.

  18. Angstrom*

    This morning while flipping through the news I saw a photo from an entertainment-industry awards ceremony. Nothing I haven’t seen a thousand times, but for some reason it got me thinking about how most men and women dress up. When women dress up to go out, they are expected to make themselves more exposed: more cleavage, more legs, more shoulders, more skin. Men…put on a jacket and tie. The difference is striking. I tried to imagine a male equivalent of a little party dress, and it wasn’t pretty. ;-)

    Has anyone else had a moment when something normal suddenly seemed odd?

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I know what you mean! I find it even more jarring when it’s a professional award ceremony and the men are in suits and women in slinky evening gowns. I mean, I love dressing up and dearly wish I had a gala to go to, but something that’s basically a work-centered event just feels like it’d be awkward to be dressed in a sexy, figure conscious way.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I remember back when I watched the TV show Gotham, young Bruce and Selena went to a fancy dress up ball, and Selena had on a full length full skirted gown with gloves. Many viewers found it amusing (she did look adorable) but one commenter pointed out she was the only one properly attired in a BALL gown, where the other women were wearing evening gowns–slim cut, slit leg, strapless, etc.

        I assume part of this is the showrunners absolutely did not want to dress a minor in an obviously sexy way, but it really highlighted the fact that for fancy, formal dress sexy is simply expected nowadays. Wasn’t it the Cannes Festival that recently had all the hoopla about women wearing *gasp* flat shoes and not heels, even if they were elderly/had balance or health issues?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’m rewatching Only Murders in the Building and reminded again how Mabel’s outfits are really cool and fashion-forward without being revealing or clingy. She looks like she dresses with an artist’s eye for cool pieces and a normal human’s eye to being warm and able to walk several blocks.

    2. Brevity*

      Yes, in the broadcast news industry. Way back when women were just getting anchor positions, and when cable was new, women dressed in full-on suits. Sure, there were a lot of floppy bows at the neck, but they were still in suits. Now, men still wear suits and women are all in cocktail dresses, except for Rachel Maddow.

      Old white dude still write the checks, I guess.

      1. Girasol*

        I had a woman’s business success guide that said that a scarf was required attire because it emulates a man’s tie.
        My thing is video games where male characters are dressed in head to toe steel armor and female characters wear a steel bra and a bikini.

    3. Kate*

      I had the same realization about this double standard years ago, and now I can’t take formal wear seriously even at events like weddings. It makes me upset with the sheer sexism and objectification involved, even when I otherwise like the outfits. It also has started to look visually uneven to me to have one person in a couple so covered up and the other… not. I guess I probably think about this too much.

      1. AGD*

        Yep. And formal menswear is barely different from what it was in 1899, whereas women are expected to keep up with totally abstract “trends” lest we look “dated.” Anything but that!

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          You’d really have to go back to the seventies to find an obviously dated tux/formalwear for men! I mean, I’m sure those in the industry can spot differences in cut and so on, but I doubt I would blink at any guy in a tux as long as he wasn’t in one of those over ruffled shirts/big velvet bow tie type combos.

      2. Kate*

        It’s also so glaring with dancers, singers, and other performers. The women wear next to nothing while the men on stage are largely fully clothed. I don’t think I’m a prude when it comes to showing skin, but let’s have some equality here.

        1. miel*

          One reason I appreciate the Pride Parade: equal-opportunity revealing outfits.

          Nearly-naked men do nothing for me, but I appreciate the role reversal.

      3. feline outerwear catalog*

        Not to mention its sizeist and ableist, too. Plus size “sexier” clothes have more options now, but I personally still don’t want to wear them.

    4. Still*

      I think this is in part why I’m completely obsessed with Timothée Chalamet’s backless outfit at Venice Film Festival. I’m all for make actors embracing outfits that would be completely unremarkable on their female counterparts but are nearly unheard of for men.

      1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        I have never kept up with red carpet events apart from the occasional Oscars ceremony, so I had not seen that particular outfit but: I am completely smitten!!
        Thank you for mentioning it!

      2. Girasol*

        Like those charcoal colored workman’s kilts. There’s no reason men shouldn’t dress like that but it does catch attention.

    5. Queer Earthling*

      I tried to imagine a male equivalent of a little party dress, and it wasn’t pretty.

      Interesting, ’cause I think men in dresses look great. So do women in suits.

      1. Angstrom*

        I’ve contradanced with guys in big twirly skirts or kilts and thought they looked great! I was imagining something like dressy shorts and a sleeveless shirt with a plunging neckline, and it wasn’t working for me…

        1. Queer Earthling*

          Shorts always read so casual in our culture, I see how it’s kind of a problem in that regard!

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Was it the early nineties when designers tried to push shorts/suit jackets? I remember seeing that in a few magazines for about a week there.

      2. Baffled*

        I’ve been looking at women and men wearing suits and the women are still (usually) showing more skin than the men. I fully realize this makes me sound like an old-fashioned prude but you can see the ANKLES! Why can’t the women wear socks? Why is it only the men? But I know this is just me being weird because I can’t stand wearing shoes without socks (sandals excluded). And you can still feel the shoes in low socks! And I usually have cold feet so the ankles must be covered! Yeah, I’m gonna step off my shoebox now. Feel free to laugh at me.

        1. Queer Earthling*

          I also hate shoes without socks (except sandals) so I do get you there haha.

          That said, spend some time looking at pics of Kathryn Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich in suits for a life-changing experience.

          1. Angstrom*

            Women in properly fitted suits or formal wear can look magnificent!

            When it comes to dresses I like skirts that move, not shrink-wrap. Twirlability is fun! The classic 40s-50s styles with the big skirts are a great look and are elegant in motion.

        2. There You Are*

          One of the things that made me sad about having to return to the office was not being able to wear leg warmers during work hours.

      3. feline outerwear catalog*

        There’s an old poster, (maybe an ad?) that is a photo of Iggy Pop wearing a dress with a quote about how men in dresses is seen as shameful, but it’s not shameful to be a woman. I’m not doing it justice, but it’s awesome.

        He looks way better in a dress than I ever would.

    6. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Yes! How we assign binary gender to titles (Mr or Ms/Mrs) and then include a woman’s marital status in her title! Patriarchy, man. So weird.

      It always seemed so strange to me, and then became even stranger when I joined the military and were just all called by our ranks. You don’t modify a Sergeant or Captain’s rank based on their gender or marital status or other unrelated qualities. They’re just that rank.

      Now I’m thinking about Sergeantess or Captainette and now I’m in stitches.

      1. 1LFTW*

        The honorific “Ms” is supposed to be used regardless of marital status, like “Mr”. The old school title for unmarried women was “Miss [LastName]”, and married women were “Mrs [Husband’sLastName]”. My mother married at a time when her name was automatically changed to my father’s, but she used “Ms”, because she was taken more seriously as a professional if she didn’t center her marital status.

        I’ve always lived and worked in such informal settings that I get to be [Firstname]. The exception is my bank, and it’s always jarring when they bust out the formal honorific.

      2. allathian*

        Yes, marital status titles have been outdated for as long as women have been more than just chattels, considered to be the property or their father or husband. This is why I absolutely despise the tradition where fathers give away their daughters in marriage, I much prefer the tradition where the bride and groom walk up the aisle together as a couple.

        That said, the military has some way to go, because there’s no gender-neutral equivalent to Sir/Ma’am. Non-binary people serve in the military, too.

    7. There You Are*

      I always end up arguing with myself when I make this same observation.

      Me: “Oh, look, it’s the Male Gaze thing again, where women are only valued for how sexy they can look to a het man.”

      Also Me: “Women can wear whatever they damned well want to, and eff the people who sexualize women’s bodies.”

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        Beach volleyball for women. The regulations make them really short so their bodies exposed. Competition leorards for gymnastics.

  19. Mitchell Hundred*

    I recently thought up a name for a concept that I really like: placetaker lyrics. Placeholder lyrics are what you put in before a song is finished, while placetaker lyrics are phrases that have the same number of syllables as a completed song lyric, and can therefore be inserted into a song while still having it scan the same.

    Probably the best-known example of this is the list of Wikipedia page titles that have the same number of syllables as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (e.g. “Universal Basic Income”, “Irish Women Workers’ Union”, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”).

    1. RagingADHD*

      Is that like how you can sing Emily Dickinson’s poetry to the tune of “Yellow Rose of Texas?”

    2. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      Is this similar to the “Yellow Rose of Texas”, which scans with all of Emily Dickinson’s poems?

      1. Mitchell Hundred*

        This is the first I’m hearing of that song, but yes, that sounds right.

        Emily Dickinson’s poems also scan with the Pokemon theme song.

          1. Angstrom*

            The Gilligan’s Island theme and “Amazing Grace” both work to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun”.

        1. NeonFireworks*

          My favourite combination is “Amazing Grace” to, like, the Jonathan Young metal cover of the Pokémon theme song.

      2. Forrest Rhodes*

        Yes! And now I’m walking around singing, “Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for meeeeee …”

        1. Forrest Rhodes*

          Thanks, Gyne and AGD. Full disclosure: I stole that line from the late, great Howard Hessemann. It still makes me laugh every time, too.

    3. Queer Earthling*

      YES! This is like half of my humor. Someone will say a phrase and I’ll sing it to something it fits into.

      Of course, I can’t think of any now except that “Casanova Frankenstein” (from the film Mystery Men) scans perfectly “Alexander Hamilton” and frankly would be a delightful musical.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        My partner and I did that all the time with our former foster cats. They had several songs featuring their names and silly things they did, all based on famous tunes. We did a Spiderman one for each cat, a Hamilton one to the tune of “You’ll Be Back”, and tens of others I’ve forgotten now.

    4. Amy in NYC*

      In the 1920s/30s/40s they called it a “dummy lyric.” Here’s part of what Ira Gershwin wrote about the song “I Got Rhythm” in his annotated anthology “Lyrics on Several Occasions”:
      “Filling in the 73 syllables of the refrain wasn’t as simple as it sounds. For over two weeks I kept fooling around with various titles and with sets of double rhymes for the trios of short two-foot lines. I’ll ad lib a dummy to show what I was at: ‘Roly-Poly, / Eating soley / Ravioli, / Better watch your diet or bust. / Lunch or dinner, / You’re a sinner. / Please get thinner. / Losing all that fat is a must.’ … Getting nowhere, I then found myself not bothering with the rhyme scheme I’d considered necessary (aaab, cccb) and experimenting with non-rhyming lines like (dummy): ‘Just go forward: / Don’t look backward; / And you’ll soon be / Winding up ahead of the game.'”

    5. D'Euly*

      Nice! In Western music theory, this is called a ‘contrafactum’, while in the Eastern Christian tradition it’s “prosomoion”.

      1. Mitchell Hundred*

        Holy cow, I did not know there was an actual technical name for this! Thank you very much.

        1. feline outerwear catalog*

          It’s not exactly the same but now I’m reminded of the Rutles parody with songs like “Yellow Submarine Sandwich” and “All you need is cash.”

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      There’s also Louie Louie, which people feel probably has very risqué lyrics even if they can’t agree on what those lyrics are.

    7. Boss Scaggs*

      In Jr high Hebrew School we used to sing “It was the Dayyy of Atonement” to Asia’s “It was the Heat of the moment”

    8. Loreli*

      As a kid I wondered what those numbers meant in the section at back of the (any protestant) hymnal: 6:4:6:4. Or 8:6:8:6. It’s the “metrical index” of the tunes (example of 8:6 is “a-maz-ing-grace-how-sweet-the-sound/that-saved-a-wretch-like-me). You can swap lyrics between any two hymns that use the same meter pattern. Which is how Rudolph the red nosed reindeer and House of the rising Sun can swap into any 8:6:8:6 tunes

  20. Hamster*

    “Unconventional” ways of eating something –

    I like to eat my salad chopped up so tiny I c an eat it with a spoon. Almost like a cereal.

    If I get a pizza loaded with toppings, I’d let them spill off and scoop them up with smaller pieces of the crust – kind of like a dry curry with naan.

    How about you?

    1. Snell*

      I used to (as a child) flatten my sandwich bread (or even a sweet pastry-ish roll from a special occasion visit to a bakery) until I could get as much air out as I could, and the bread texture became dense and doughy. I really liked the feeling of biting into that. My mom questioned me about it multiple times, but if a child is willing to eat the food you give her, that’s less struggle for you, so we left it at “mom thinks I have weird taste.”

      1. anon24*

        I still do that to sandwiches if they’re made with like the crappy grocery store wonder bread type bread (ie non bakery bread) and deli meat and cheese. I don’t love the texture of cheap bread, but I can’t always afford nice bread and I kind of like the taste of the flattened bread mixed with the cold meat and cheese!

    2. Popcorn*

      We make air-popped popcorn and put various flavored powders on it. This has led to my husband eating it with a large soup spoon. Which is still kinda amusing to me.

      1. Sparkle Llama*

        I usually eat trail mix with a spoon. I never considered popcorn since the pieces are bigger but might try it. I do it for trail mix largely to keep my hand clean and my food clean if I am doing something while eating.

        1. anomalous flamingo*

          My kid eats popcorn with chopsticks, after a family friend who ate chips with chopsticks. It does keep your fingers clean!

          1. Dublin liver*

            My siblings and I (non-Asian) used to do that for fun when we were teens. It helped us all to develop our chopstick skills, which has served us well in life.

    3. Sitting Pretty*

      This maybe not so unonventional but I’m not sure… if there are multiple components to my meal, I eat around in a kind of proportional rotation so plate stays balanced. I never finish, say, all of the squash then move on to the chicken then spinach. Nope, it’s bites of squash-chicken-spinach all the way down. This makes it so the last bite has at least one delightful bit of each component.

      It also means that all sandwiches and other hand-meals get eaten from the edges inward. I am a bit of a mess at the taco stand

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        I do that too! Both the balancing bites from a plate, and the tackling of sandwiches (and pastries, but not tacos, for my sanity’s sake) ends first, middle last. I never gave it a second thought until today :)

      2. beep beep*

        I do this too, but if I have a dessert I plan to have with dinner, I like to incorporate it in. So I go chicken-green beans-rice-brownie in the cycle, or so on.

      3. carcinization*

        I do it because as a child I was admonished for finishing one thing on my plate before moving on to the next, now I can’t stop, and get made fun of for eating in such a rotation.

    4. The Dude Abides*

      Forget who I stole it from, but when I was a broke college student I would do a frozen waffle PBJ “sandwich” as a meal 1-2 times per day.

      Later on, after discovering the spreadable crack that is Nutella, I did the same thing.

    5. Arts Akimbo*

      I don’t like anything but salt on my baked potatoes, and generally I will pick them up, peel back the foil, and eat them like a candy bar.

    6. Dublin liver*

      I like to eat my salad with chopsticks. It’s just the easiest way to pick up all the little bits.

    7. Firebird*

      I like crackers and cheese. Sometimes the whole box of crackers is really broken up, so I put the cracker pieces in a bowl with crumbled up cheese and eat it with a spoon.

    8. WoodswomanWrites*

      When my sister and I were kids, our mom sometimes got us rainbow sherbet with lots of colors for dessert. She would mash and stir it in her bowl until it all turned gray.

    9. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I top my morning yogurt with two handfuls of cereal, then proceed to eat half of the cereal from the top on its own, before mixing the rest with the yogurt at the bottom. For some reason, it drives me to eat at a slower pace and take my time savouring breakfast. I thought of cutting down to one handful of cereal and stirring everything right away, but then I wouldn’t enjoy that time of the day as much!

      My MIL stirs sparkling wines around with a spoon to make them flat, which puzzles me to no end, because the bubbles are the very reason why I like that sort of wine.

      1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        xD I might be your MIL ;D I also stir sparkling wines to make them flat.
        I only like sparkling stuff in lemondes and coke and I do enjoy the (to my palate) less harsh taste most sparkling wines have compared to regular ones. So, stirring it is…

    10. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I prefer chopped salads like you describe, but am too lazy to actually make them that way. I also cut up my spaghetti with a knife and fork into bite sized bits that I can scoop onto the fork or spoon rather than twirling it round. (I knew I was keeping my bestie forever when she brought me a bowl of leftover spaghetti and had already cut it up for me. 22 years now. :) )

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Oh, and I prefer soda at room temperature rather than cold. I dont mind cold when I’m out, but I don’t refrigerate it at home.

      2. SarahKay*

        As a kid Dad would chop up our spaghetti for us, then I got a bit older and discovered I could use my fork to make a twirl of it on to the spoon so I’d end up with a small coil of spaghetti on the spoon. Then I could add the bolognaise sauce on top of that coil and have a neat spponful of food I could easily pop into my mouth.
        Aged ten, this was a neat trick that impressed my parents. Aged 50 I realised that everyone around me was twirling the pasta onto their fork, barely using the spoon at all and I… was still making my neat spoonful.
        Luckily, aged 50, I care far less about other people’s opinions and decided to continue on my tidy spoon-fed way.

    11. 2023 Got Better*

      I dislike touching my food so I will always a fork or spoon. Including snack foods like chips. I don’t have any phobias, I just try to avoid germs and keep my fingers clean.

    12. numptea*

      Obviously I only do this at home, but I eat salad in stages. I got fed up with chasing bits around the bowl because it would make the leafy lettuce “snap back” and fling dressing everywhere. Now I eat all the lettuce first, then go back and make a second salad with the smaller veg pieces. An unexpected bonus is that I use much less dressing this way.

    13. GoryDetails*

      I like to snack on slices of Oscar Meyer bologna (the chicken-and-pork-blend version, no other will do). These days I just peel a couple of slices out of the pack and eat them, but in my college days I’d make a little project out of it: I’d fold each slice in half and bite little holes out of it, making a pattern (and in the process warming up the bologna a bit, which for some reason made it taste better?). Unfold it, admire my work, and devour the rest. (Gosh, that’s a long time ago now…)

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        That makes sense, since cold deadens our taste buds just a little. The bologna probably did taste better after warming up a bit! I like that you made little patterns– a seasonal bologna snowflake? :D

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Weird bologna buddy!

        My way is to fold it into a little cone and bite out the middle. Then I eat the circle. When I was a kid, I would spread mustard on it and just eat it like that, no bread.

        (I will eat the beef bologna)

    14. goddessoftransitory*

      I used to love stirring my ice cream into soft style with my spoon when I was little, especially if it had chocolate syrup on it!

    15. Pocket Mouse*

      I eat kiwis like they’re strawberries – everything except the stem part. Apparently that’s unusual, going by my partner’s comments every time I do this.

    16. Elizabeth West*

      I like to separate M&Ms by color. Then I eat them thus: brown, orange, yellow, green, blue, and red last because those are my favorite. I have done this since I was a child and I will not change it now.

      1. Janne*

        I eat brown, blue, yellow, orange, red, green.

        I once participated in a research study about the effects of food on the brain, where I had to fast for 18 hours and then they put me in a room with a huge bowl of M&M’s. (Still no idea what that had to do with the effect of food on my brain though) Unfortunately, when they came back I had only got to sorting them and hadn’t eaten any. The next week they did the same but then salty crackers instead of M&M’s, I ate the whole bowl, then regretted it all day because that was way too much salt XD

    17. SuprisinglyADHD*

      I disassemble food! Particularly sandwiches but I will also eat all the “stuff” out of a soup then drink the broth or take the wrapping off sushi. I restrain myself at restaurants but at home, all bets are off! It’s a combination of getting full and wanting to eat the “good” stuff, and having bad teeth that make biting and chewing difficult.

    18. Might Be Spam*

      When I was a kid, I used to put ketchup and mustard on my mashed potatoes, because I liked it and it grossed out my siblings. I still like ketchup on mashed potatoes. I just remembered that my family put creamed corn on mashed potatoes instead of gravy. I don’t know why we stopped. I guess I’ll be eating a lot of mashed potatoes tomorrow.

    19. Thunder Kitten*

      I would rather eat chunks of raw veggies than a salad. Pull the leaves off romaine and crunch. wash/peel small carrot (or turn bigger ones into big sticks). same with cucumbers. I also don’t usually like dressing on my salad – if I end up having it, dressing is on the side and I dip each bite.

  21. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

    Small joys thread? What made you happy last week?

    I made some short ribs in the toaster oven that came out perfect — meat was falling off the bone.

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      Ooh, I made a delicious beef stew, packed with vegetables! It made me happy how many veggies I managed to pack in there! Plus I nailed the amount of salt perfectly.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      I went to a showing of the new Joan Baez documentary “I Am a Noise” that included an interview with her in person afterward. The film is outstanding and it was such a treat to be in the presence of this history-maker.

    3. BellaStella*

      Getting the baseboards off my walls and cleaning the walls for new baseboards. And plying with my kitty

      1. BlueMeeple*

        We went to a Secret Screening, ( where the film isn’t announced beforehand), and it was Anatomy of a Fall, which was excellent!

        1. Ane*

          I am so curious about Secret Screenings. How does it work – you get an invite from someone you know who works there? Do you know the rating before going? I would so hate to go and it turns out it is a horror or disaster movie or there’s looong sex scenes.

    4. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I made muffins on Monday night and had them for breakfast for the rest of the week.

      I thought they’d taste a bit more chocolatey, but they had a salted caramel centre that was just perfect, and the texture came out so soft. I usually prefer cookies and flapjacks to muffins, these were a bit of a revelation.

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          A friend sent it to me from a cookbook by Rukmini Iyer. I just realised that it’s one of the pages available for free in the Google Books online preview.

          Try googling “Intense Chocolate Salted Caramel Muffins”. One of the results should be the Google Books preview of the cookbook, and you’ll see the recipe.

          Or if you start from Google Books, the cookbook to look up is “The Sweet Roasting Tin: One Tin Cakes, Cookies & Bakes – quick and easy recipes”. Hope you get to it, try it and enjoy it :)

    5. GoryDetails*

      Am continuing to enjoy – and be impressed by – the Netflix series PLUTO, an animated series based on the awesome manga by Naoki Urosawa, itself an adaptation of an Astro Boy story by Osamu Tezuka.

      The story is a kind of gritty police-procedural set in a world where advances in robots and AI have resulted in political tensions over robot rights, and where Something is destroying the most powerful – and beloved – robots on Earth, one by one, and is also killing humans who support robot rights. Police detective Gesicht is trying to solve the case before any more deaths occur, and has teamed up with the brilliant, near-human Atom… The animation is well done, with an excellent score, and so far is providing the tension and suspense as well as the often profound emotions from the characters. (There’s a long section dealing with a war-robot who has chosen to work as a butler for a reclusive blind composer, in hopes of getting away from its destructive past; the prickly composer isn’t keen on having a robot around, but the two bond in unexpected ways. Too bad that robot-slayer is still out there… I knew what was going to happen and got sniffly anyway.)

      Really good series!

    6. Hotdog not dog*

      Local craft show this morning. I found lots of treasures- good, hand-knit socks, a cute macrame air plant holder, fancy scented soap, a hand carved wooden ornament, and THREE different autographed novels by local authors! I had to leave behind countless other super cool things because I am not a gazillionaire, but I had a great time looking at everything and getting to meet so many creative artists.

    7. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      One of the kitties I brought home 2 months ago is very skittish and shy. This week she finally began letting me pet her. I am over the moon!

    8. Bethlam*

      I play on a site that has 4, 5, and 6 letter Wordles, plus a Phrasle. For the 6 letter word, I always start with the word stripe. One day this week, on a whim, I mixed up those same 6 letters to spell priest and used it as my first word. And that was the word!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I always start “globle” with Mali, and last week was inordinately thrilled when that was the answer.

    9. RLC*

      My late father’s cat has started sitting on my lap! Dad passed in July and his cat has integrated well with our cat crew, but she was NEVER a lap cat, so this is a lovely development. Also, the Great Horned Owls in our garden have begun their annual late night courting conversations.

    10. Rrach*

      I have been facing up to some long-term food/cooking issues – but today I made myself a really delicious lunch – using up lots of nice ingredients from the fridge. Then put on an apron and tried out a dairy, egg and gluten-free focaccia recipe – it worked perfectly and I felt pretty proud of myself.

    11. goddessoftransitory*

      I made a new dinner that consisted of raviolis in a cacio et pepe sauce with a side salad of spinach, feta, walnuts and strawberries, and it came out great! Husband asked that it be put into regular rotation!

    12. Hamster*

      Small joy is that I reconnected with a friend – under not so great circumstances (for me) but looking on the bright side and all. Everything happens for a reason etc etc.

    13. Girasol*

      I discovered this week that those zucchinis and crookneck squash in the garden that suddenly grew huge and tough and seedy can be made into zuke-o-lanterns. Cut out and scoop a candle port in the back, carve a face, slice the bottom off flat to make it stand, and put a battery-powered tea light inside. I had a ball making a whole group of them.

    14. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Last year for Christmas I got a set of decorative kitchen utensils engraved with Star Wars characters and have been trying ever since to figure out how to display them. Today I picked up the droid-shaped popcorn bucket I got at Disneyworld last month and had a thought. Now there is a droid full of utensils in an out-of-the-way corner of my kitchen counter (away from the utensils that we actually use) and I am super pleased.

    15. Elizabeth West*

      This may be silly, but the grocery store I go most often to has so many different things I like that it makes me happy to shop. For example, they have chocolate chip ice cream. Not mint chip, not cookies and cream (yuck), but ACTUAL chocolate chip. Haven’t seen it in ages and thought companies stopped making it! They also have a little teeny British shelf section where I can get Branston Pickle and Heinz Salad Cream.

      And today, I found Cheerwine (a cherry soda) in the same store. It’s such a Southern thing — I was shocked to find it in New England.

      Oh yeah, and they also carry Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee! I’ve always wanted to try it because I found the name amusing. It’s not bad and I like the steel can.

    16. JubJubTheIguana*

      I had a lovely moment of connection with a stranger over our shared Jewish heritage.

      Then, there was a blackout and my phone died so I was walking around a strange city, and I found a lovely cafe where they let me charge my phone and use their Wi-fi, and I ordered a veggie sandwich at random and it came with a gorgeous spinach and strawberry salad with a very spicy vinaigrette!

    17. carcinization*

      I found presents for a couple of hard-to-shop for friends while out and about in the nearest large city yesterday.

  22. Liminality*

    Let me start by saying: there is exactly One “s” in the phrase “Daylight Saving Time”.

    Twice a year I must brace myself for news articles that write it as Savings, and some have it both ways in the same article! (Of course no one is perfect, but there used to be a team to help avoid typos and inaccuracies in published works. I mourn the loss of dedicated copy editors.)

    Now, I shall step down from my soap box. I’d like to ask, does anyone else have ‘that one thing’ that just makes their skin crawl every time they see it in print?

    1. Liminality*

      My other one, which tends to be more consistent throughout the year is “safe deposit box”. The impulse is to say “safety”. I was definitely someone who did until it was pointed out to me and now it grabs my attention every time I hear it. The deposit box is (generally) in a safe. That’s how it gets its name. :)
      Of course as common use goes, so goes the language and we must all bow to the inevitable. But it is not in my nature to go quietly into that good night.

          1. There You Are*

            I like “for all intensive porpoises” because I picture some very serious aquatic mammalians.

      1. allathian*

        Yup. This and pronouncing cavalry as “calvary.” That’s like the sound of nails on a chalkboard to me.

    2. Aphrodite*

      “It’s” versus “its.” There are others but this one is so common it drives me bananas. I never say anything, though.

      1. Liminality*

        You’re right! I know there are reasonable logicrules for why the one gets the apostrophe and not the other but I’ve always thought it was decided backwards.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Well, it’s as a possessive doesn’t make sense unless we change to hi’s, her’s, our’s and their’s, which would be far more painful.

      2. Shiara*

        I hate this. I hate even more that autocorrect is constantly changing mine to the wrong one and I often only notice right as I press send. I try to tell myself that that’s what happened to everyone else too.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        For me, it drives me up the wall when my engineers use “discrete” as a noun. It’s an adjective.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Rein/reign/rain interchangeably. Homonym means sound alike, not same meaning!

        (See also whether/weather, to/too/two I could go ON AND ON)

      1. Brunch Enthusiast*

        And the corresponding over-correction “Someone and I” when used as the object, as in “Alice said hello to Bob and I”.

    3. Goldfeesh*

      Weary used when wary is meant. The wild creature isn’t exhausted upon seeing a human, it is cautious.

    4. WoodswomanWrites*

      This is generally spoken and not written: “I could care less” instead of “I couldn’t care less.”

    5. The Prettiest Curse*

      I completely understand why people get this wrong because horse riding is a niche pursuit, but it’s “rein in” (as if you were riding a horse and pulling on the reins to make it slow down or stop), not “reign in” (as if a monarch was telling you what to do.)

    6. Cookies For Breakfast*

      This may get lost in translation, but I’ll try.

      In my native European language, verbs that describe the weather have a quirk in some tenses. Most people, me included, will say “it has rained today”. It sounds natural, as it tracks with the way nearly all other similar verbs work. But the proper, official grammar rule for weather verbs, which schoolteachers insisted on A LOT when I was a kid, is to say “it is rained today”.

      My mother goes ballistic when she hears the “has” version on TV, or sees it written on papers. “Yelling at the radio that they should hire better educated presenters” kind of ballistic. I try to be careful when I discuss rain, snow or hailstorms with her!

      Googling the grammar rule returns plenty of sources saying that language evolves, and both forms should be acceptable. That’s my stance too. But try telling that to a 70-something retired teacher who spent a long career trying to drill grammar into reluctant students’ heads…

      1. Sloanicota*

        Oh man we have a few of those in English too, where the way something is “correctly” constructed sounds awful on the ear and nobody would ever say except grouchy teachers who have to teach it that way. Good fodder for the pedants amount us.

      1. Lexi Vipond*

        Yes – I don’t really notice ‘John and me went to the shop’, but the hypercorrection of ‘She was talking to John and I’ gets on my nerves!

    7. Chauncy Gardener*

      Incorrect use of apostrophes makes my head want to explode.

      Also, incorrect usage of I and me. Flames!

    8. Gracie*

      Formerly/formally

      Especially when you’re trying to chase paper trails across the internet and trying to figure out whether “Company A (formally Company B)” means that Company A changed its name and used to be B and they used the wrong word, or if B is the company’s legal name but it’s trading as A

      Nine times out of ten, they meant “formerly”

        1. WellRed*

          Ok so a year or so ago there was a sad story where a cop was killed in the line of duty. The local paper quoted a woman who said she “balled all night.” Quite the different meaning and my mom, aunt and I laughed until we cried. But hey, handle grief in whatever way works for you!

        2. Courageous cat*

          Yes! On Reddit, I constantly see “chocking” for “choking” as well, and it drives me absolutely batshit. It’s not even phonetic, why can people not see that? How do they not pronounce that in their head as “chalking”?

    9. RMNPgirl*

      Lose vs loose kills me! I read a lot of fanfiction and I’ve noticed a huge uptick in this mistake in the last few years.

      1. Liminality*

        I was once, rather forcefully, corrected for this one. :D you may rest assured that I will never make this mistake again.

    10. londonedit*

      In England, the place where you get married in a secular ceremony is called a Register Office. I would estimate that 99.9% of people don’t know this and instead call it a ‘Registry Office’.

      1. bassclefchick*

        Well. Now I’m really going to mess with you. Because I always thought it was Registrar’s Office. Though that may be because I work at a University.

          1. londonedit*

            I looked it up, and officially it is ‘register office’, but even the gov.uk website has it as ‘register office (registry office)’ so I guess they accept that the battle has been lost!

            1. Pippa K*

              But just to complete the circle for bassclefchick here, the person (civil official, priest, etc.) who registers the marriage is… the registrar :-)

    11. Buni*

      Redundancies with initialisms / acronyms – people who say ‘PIN number’ or ‘ATM machine’. Just makes me twitch…

    12. bassclefchick*

      Could of. It’s could HAVE. Also misplaced apostrophes. I usually see it when the writer means it to be plural, but places the apostrophe in the possessive spot.

    13. Jean (just Jean)*

      I mourn the loss of dedicated copy editors.

      THIS! THIS! THIS! Truly a sorrow for society. We oughta fly flags at half-staff for, like, forever (or until the Overlords of Capitalism relent and re-hire copy editors and proofreaders).

      Other reactions to your post:
      – My Inner Reverent Soul observed a moment of silence for all of the displaced (fired? retired? ran screaming for the exits?) dedicated copy editors.
      – My Inner Haranguer is still ranting, but the rest of us* are not listening.

      *I have several Inner Characters. It makes life more interesting. :-D

      1. Comma philosophies*

        Here’s the thing…I used to think there were actual fixed rules for grammar until I started working with editors. Every single one has their own rules for commas. They’re all different. I once went from a writing job where you’d think the editor got a dollar every time she removed a comma to one where you’d think the editor got a dollar every time she added one. It totally messed with my head.

        I settled into a default somewhere in the middle (but Oxford commas are not optional!) and have been pretty happy for years, but now I work with someone who loves commas and adds them in places where I think they don’t belong. It’s bringing back all the “what am I supposed to do with commas again?” vibes that I thought were behind me. We’re both professional writers and professional editors, we just have different comma philosphies.

        So any, just having an editor will not necessarily make you happy with the resulting grammar.

        1. virago*

          The Associated Press, the style bible for journalists, does not use Oxford commas. One exception exists: In a series of semicolons, the last punctuation mark in the series is a comma.

          As a newspaper copy editor, I suspect that the objection to the Oxford comma is a space-saving measure. In print, an added punctuation mark can add an unwieldy extra line to a story.

    14. Jean (just Jean)*

      More examples of copy errors that make me grind my teeth:
      Home in on something, instead of hone in on something
      Phase instead of faze (e.g., “the typos did not phase her”)
      Pour over instead of pore over (Archivists will feel murderous if you apply liquids t0 any historic documents!)
      Unphase instead of unfazed
      – And the classics: its vs. it’s; their vs. they’re; your
      vs. you’re

        1. Snell*

          To soften my other comment, dropping in to say I agree with Lore that I agree with you, Jean, on most of your list. I just couldn’t let “hone in” get past me, lol.

      1. Snell*

        I am so sorry to tell you this (well, not too sorry, but I am telling you sorry anyway). I am pro-“home in” and will not be dissuaded. Hone in is what gets my goat.

        You know how “couldn’t care less” makes perfect sense and is perfectly usable when you need it? But then people made the “could care less” error too many times, and now have all their retroactive rationalizing that makes a kind of half sense (ish), but it doesn’t sit as naturally and still doesn’t make as much (straightforward!) sense as “couldn’t care less”? That’s how I feel about “hone in” used erroneously in place of “home in.”

    15. captain5xa*

      I agree with the “lose” and “loose” errors. GAH!

      My biggest pet peeve is people who type “ya’ll” instead of “y’all.” (Yes, I live in the south.). It’s a contraction of “you all” folks!

        1. Donkey Hotey*

          They will take my Oxford comma from me when they pry it from my hands, which will be cold, dead, and stiff.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I’m from Michigan and “ya’ll” makes me want to throw things too. :)

    16. Mitchell Hundred*

      I generally let things go as long as I can understand what people are saying. It does bug me to see people write that something “peeked” or “peaked” their interest instead of piquing it, but I’ve never pointed that out to anyone.

      That said, the one thing I will consistently correct is people’s use of terms like “the 1800s” or “the 1900s” to refer to a century. Using the same term to refer to two extremely similar concepts (like a decade and a century, for instance) is just asking for trouble. People always say that the context makes it clear, which is only sometimes true, and of course there’s no way to guarantee that.

      1. sulky-anne*

        The issue you run into there is that terms like “the nineteenth century” are non intuitive, since you have to mentally subtract a century (at least I do).

        1. Mitchell Hundred*

          Of course, but in my opinion it’s fairly easy to explain why the 19th century is the one where all the years start with eighteen. As far as I know there is no simple explanation for how you’re supposed to tell whether, say, the writer of a book means the decade or the century when they say “the 1800s.”

      2. londonedit*

        I swear you shouldn’t be allowed to have a job in marketing/social media unless you can demonstrate that you understand it’s ‘sneak peek’ and not ‘sneak peak’.

    17. sulky-anne*

      As a proofreader, I can’t help noticing things like this but they don’t bother me. When a so-called mistake is extremely common, I like to come up with theories about why the invented version is more popular than the original.

      I am a fan of plurals like “attorneys general” or “passersby” but I seem to be an outlier on that. I just think they’re fun to say.

      1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

        Yeah, I notice this stuff (since I teach and grade writing for a living), but I don’t get overly irked by it.

        I try to tell my students not to use their grammar knowledge to oppress others. I’m teaching them the most formal, conservative, arguably “correct” ways to say things so that they have that knowledge handy when they are applying to graduate school or for a job, but I don’t attach any moral value to those “correct” ways, and I hope my students don’t either. As far as I’m concerned, people can speak or write however they want. At this point in my life, much as I love copy editing and “correcting,” I feel like the whole point of the enterprise of teaching grammar is to make sure that everyone has the same opportunities by being able to haul out grammar knowledge when they need it. (Yes, I am aware that “everyone” takes the singular; my “they” in the preceding sentence is the gender-inclusive singular “they.”)

    18. Bethlam*

      Fewer and less than. There’s currently a TV commercial for high end diapers and the announcer states that using them results in “less diaper changes.” Aaarrrggghhhh.

    19. Bo Peep*

      Personally I hate when people wave off all the now-common errors in this thread with “it doesn’t matter, you know what it meant”. Okay, maybe I did know. But a non-native speaker won’t. And I only know because I recognize the correct way, but if we stop correcting and teaching future generations will get progressively farther from the actual meanings and rules of grammar (I bet if you asked someone what an “intensive purpose” was they’d panic lol), far faster than the usual linguistic drift.

      1. anon for this*

        This is the common fear, but language change is normal and it’s going to go on regardless of what we’ve decided is and isn’t correct. I took a dialectology class and the instructor showed some examples of people very agitated about language change hundreds of years ago. We have the language that underwent all those changes anyway and it’s fine.

    20. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t love when people stretch words out in typing by repeating letters (example: “I looooooove chocolate chip cookies!”)

      But oh my Jiminy Christmas, it burns my biscuits when they choose to do so by repeating letters *that are silent or otherwise not reasonable to be stretched out*: “I loveeeeeeeeeee chocolate chip cookies!”

    21. Jelly*

      A few of mine:

      Apostrophes meant for plurality used as a possessive (“American’s love to shop.”)

      “Up” added to everything (“We met up for coffee” – no, you just met for coffee. “I searched up the paper” – no, you just searched the paper. Etc.)

      Comma splices (“I went to the store, my little sister followed me” – no!)

      “Supposably.” Nope!

      “All the sudden.” *sigh*

    22. goddessoftransitory*

      People who talk about “Revelations” in a Biblical context. It’s REVELATION, with no “S,” as in The Revelation Of St. John the Divine. It’s a specific thing!

      (As a corollary, people who insist mashing prophecy from Issaiah, Daniel and others into that Book, with absolutely no regard for history or context.)

    23. There You Are*

      @Liminality – Are you my Boomer father? :-D

      Actually, you can’t be him because you didn’t add “hot water heater”.

      1. Liminality*

        Haha! I am neither a boomer nor anyone’s father. :D but your dad sounds like a guy with at least a couple of good opinions.

    24. BunnyWatsonToo*

      formally when they mean formerly
      defiantly when they mean definitely
      And all the ‘s when it should just be s

      1. Snell*

        Oh no…you reminded me about people who know enough to know enough to get plural possessive correct (dogs’? parents’? Yes!) but then their brains break when it comes to possessives for singular nouns that end with “s” (class’? bus’? Marcus’? NO)

    25. JubJubTheIguana*

      PIN Number. What exactly do you think the N stands for!!!

      I did just find out that in Mexico, PIN is “NIB” which I find so cute somehow. Put your nib in por favor senorita.

      1. Girasol*

        I always thought that “PIN number” – which is indeed redundant – was used to reduce confusion with a physical pin, like a straight pin, or a pen, which can sound like “pin” in some accents.

    26. londonedit*

      Oh, also: ‘everyday’ being used when people mean ‘every day’. It’s not ‘great value everyday’. You mean ‘great value every day’. ‘Everyday’ means something commonplace, an everyday occurrence. Every day means each day.

    27. virago*

      “Reticent” (uncomfortable with talking) instead of “reluctant” (unwilling).

      I don’t know how this got started, but it must be stamped out.

      1. virago*

        To clarify, “reluctant” means “unwilling” in general, such as “I am reluctant to get up early because my bed is warm and cozy.”

        “Reticent” means “unwilling to converse,” such as “I am reticent until I’ve had my first cup of coffee.”

    28. Falling Diphthong*

      I only use “literally” when I mean “literally.”

      (In a past thread I recall someone explained that words that mean “this is literally a truthful and accurate fact that I am about to state” turn into emphasizers, and so poor literally is just following in the path of very, really, and truly.)

    29. carcinization*

      Oh boy, this is a long comment thread but before I read the whole thing I have to say, “very unique!” My husband and I were both taught in our upper and lower division Statistics classes that “unique” means “just one” so “very unique” is nonsensical. “Very unusual” is fine, “very unique” is wrong. We hear it on TV at least weekly and yell out, “No Very Unique!” while together on the couch.

  23. The New Wanderer*

    Bummer of the week: I wanted to give the new Frasier show a chance because I was a fan of (most of) the original show and also Cheers. I didn’t make it five minutes because there was a laugh track! I think it’s been over a decade, maybe longer, since I’ve watched any show with a laugh track so it really threw me off. It was a disappointment because it was so unexpected and jarring. I watch a ridiculous amount of tv and just … forgot that laugh tracks were ever a thing.

    Is it worth giving it another shot? I’m willing to put up with a lot for good writing, but not if the ‘audience’ is going to be braying at every other line.

    1. Dublin liver*

      I think it’s worth another try. Maybe even two. Sometimes it takes a while to get (re) used to a convention that can seem jarring, be it a laugh track, dubbing, old fashioned acting style, whatever. But it’s usually possible and usually worth it.

    2. Liminality*

      My rule is 3 episodes before a decision. If I’m not feeling it by then it’s unlikely that I ever will. But sometimes the first two episodes are world-building and the actual hook of the plot finally kicks in for episode three.

    3. WellRed*

      I grew up with laugh track tv so it doesn’t bother me. But I was disappointed in the Murphy Brown revival. Just wasn’t funny to my any more.

    4. Just peeking in*

      I think it’s actually filmed in front of a live studio audience, but I read a review that speculated that was boosted a bit by a laugh track. Not what we are used to now, but more of a throwback to the days of the original.

      1. Double A*

        I’m pretty sure live studio audiences have always been boosted.

        I find laugh tracks nostalgic and I grew up with them so they don’t bother me, though it’s been awhile since I’ve watched a show that has one.

    5. Mitchell Hundred*

      I haven’t seen any of the new Frasier (don’t have the streaming service it’s on), but a big red flag for me was that they didn’t have any of the supporting cast from the original show. My impression was that the people who greenlit it overestimated the appeal of Frasier as an individual, when a large part of what made that show great was the secondary characters.

      Of course, the original Frasier was also about taking a single character from a existing show and putting him in a new setting, but at least in that case they seemed aware of the fact that they were doing something new. It wasn’t pitched as a revival of Cheers.

    6. don'tbeadork*

      Even as a kid I was suspicious of shows where we had to be told where to laugh. Seriously, if your lines are all that funny people will laugh without a prompt, whether that’s some guy holding up a “laugh” card or pre-recorded laughter added to the show.

      I don’t watch much TV, but maybe give it another episode or two to see if you can block out the laugh track and focus on the acting? Maybe it’ll be good once you get past that canned laughter.

    7. Person from the Resume*

      The Decoder Ring podcast had a really good episode about the invention, rise, and fall of the alight track/Laff Box. Very interesting.

      And I generally do not watch comedy shows anymore but I have one a try and it had a laugh track, and I lasted maybe 3 minutes. I was disconcerted how the actors stopped talking to allow for canned laughter on a line that wasn’t laugh worthy. It might have been funny, but in no way funny enough to generate laughter.

    8. JubJubTheIguana*

      Oh I have a whole theory about this!

      The rule for a great sitcom character is: someone who is not objectively a failure, but is nonetheless a loser because of hubris and desire to possess more than they can achieve. The iconic sitcom characters constantly plan and strive for greatness or importance but their plans are doomed to fail.

      Basil Fawlty, Hyacinth Bucket, David Brent, they all fit this pattern.

      Frasier fit this mould perfectly; he was objectively successful (wealthy, Harvard educated, reasonably successful local radio show) but constantly pursued and plotted for higher levels of fame and status, and always failed.

      Frasier in the new series is presented as too successful. He’s supposed to be insanely (like Elon Musk level) wealthy and a household name massive A list celeb who Harvard is desperate to sign as a professor. That’s just… not funny. Frasier only starts to work from the third episode, no spoilers, but they start to kind of debunk his perceived success and status.

      I don’t know where they’ll go from here though because how can they have him chase status and come up with comedic situations similar to the French restaurant or the spa (“platinum door!”) episodes of the original, when the character is now so crazy rich and famous?

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        Amazing! Joey Tribbiani (“I was Dr Drake Ramoray!”), George Costanza, all the Edmund Blackadders, Andy Millman…they all fit your pattern too. I’d never thought of it like this but you’re absolutely right.

    9. The New Wanderer*

      Thanks, everyone! I (Gen-X) also grew up watching many, many sitcoms with laugh tracks so I was just surprised how off-putting I found it. I wonder if I’ll be more successful approaching it like it’s a stage play, where the actors have to pause for audience reaction so their next line could be heard.

      I’m cueing up the podcast recommendation from Person from the Resume, thanks for that! I’ll have to see if Stuff You Should Know ever did a show on laugh tracks.

      JubJub, interesting theory! I hadn’t thought about it in those terms before. One thing about those characters is that while they usually set themselves up to fail through their own actions (Basil Fawlty, looking at you!), they were also everyday-type people facing everyday-type frustrations that the audience can relate to. It’s harder if the character has such a charmed life, because any so-called setbacks are just too trivial or too specific to the ultra-rich/famous/successful lifestyle to identify with. Then again, the Kardashians have managed to have a successful string of shows…

  24. Aphrodite*

    Sometimes when I am desperate for a laugh I search out a couple of videos. Always reliable sources of distraction include the Chuckles the Clown episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show and the dentist skit with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway. I also like “The Music Box” with Laurel & Hardy. I’ll post a reply to this and link some other things I think are also good when you are looking for amusing distractions.

    1. Aphrodite*

      Cat watching horror movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kgRFHaNo-Y
      Medieval helpdesk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQHX-SjgQvQ
      You shall not pass, dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzNDYy7gpkA
      Cat barking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgIfcmDI9K4
      Neighborhood hazard: https://lifeisaroad.com/stories/2004/10/29/neighborhoodHazardorWhyTheCopsWontPatrolBriceStreet.html
      The bacon incident: https://web.archive.org/web/20121203054109/http://www.jenniferjo.com/Square_Bacon_Incident.htm
      The crow and the kitten: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JiJzqXxgxo
      Who’s on First: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sShMA85pv8M
      Cat herders (of course): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwO45La_NVo
      Simon’s cat: https://www.youtube.com/user/simonscat

      1. Firebird*

        The Chuckles episode makes me think of the show where they toss turkeys out of a helicopter for a radio show and the announcer says “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” I just can’t remember the name.

          1. UsuallyALurker*

            It’s WKRP’s episode Turkeys Away, but Arthur “Big Guy” Carlson says that line.
            Les delivers the news report about the turkeys falling out of the sky.

    2. Clisby*

      And the never-gets-old “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!” episode of WKRP in Cincinnati.

    3. GoryDetails*

      So many Carol Burnett skits! “I saw it in the window and I couldn’t resist it,” or anything where Tim Conway is making the others break up (the elephants-joined-at-the-trunk one slays me every time).

    4. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      The Carol Burnett Show’s skit about four people who are trying to find someone to go out to dinner with and keep calling each other up and breaking dates with each other when they think they’re getting a better offer amuses me.

      1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

        When I went and tried to find this on YouTube, I fell down a bit of a Carol Burnett Show rabbithole. May I also recommend their Columbo spoof called something like Cobumble?

    5. Chaordic One*

      The episode of “Taxi” called “Jim the Psychic.” Jim has a psychic dream predicting Alex will meet death. Louie intervenes to prevent it. Chaos, absurdity and laughter ensue.

    6. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      Not kid-friendly for sure, but I find the British series ‘Coupling’ to be incredibly funny – particularly the episode titled ‘Inferno’.

      And yes, one more vote for the WKRP Thanksgiving episode!

    7. The OG Sleepless*

      The Looney Tunes episode where Duck Dodgers meets Marvin the Martian. I could watch that little bullet stopping in midair and going BANG fifty times in a row and crack up fifty times.

      1. Pippa K*

        Also recommend the one with Bugs Bunny as a bullfighter (“Bully for Bugs” if you’re looking for it). The astonished expression on the bull’s face as he sails through the air at one point makes me giggle just thinking about it.

    8. Busy Middle Manager*

      Bunita Butrell on In Living Color. The Vancome Lady on Mad Tv. I also rewatch “best of Sofia Insults” from Golden Girls or “Best of Blanche.” I can watch the same bits 100X and still laugh.

      And speaking of Carol Burnett, I still laugh at their Gone With the Wind.

    9. Jelly*

      I follow two channels on YouTube:

      “Layla the Boxer” and “csapunch” – both channels contain very short-length but very funny and entertaining videos.

    10. goddessoftransitory*

      I can always watch Abbott and Costello doing “Third Base.” The timing is perfection.

      For longer stuff, I watch MST/Rifftrax pretty much every day, usually while riding the exercise bike!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Oh, and adding on: I just love the “Steve’s Bully” episode of American Dad. The bit where the principal is eating his desk sandwich and watching the security cam, then sees a werewolf, cracks me up every single time!

    11. Maestra*

      It’s very short, but please do yourself a favor and look up “Toronto Raptor on Rollerblades” on YouTube. It gets me every time.

    12. Generic Name*

      There’s a YouTube video entitled “tro lo lo” that I find utterly hilarious. It’s from a Russian (Soviet?) talk show from the 70s or 80s. Apparently, a guest cancelled at the last minute and this is how the show/host decided to fill the time.

  25. (Not anymore) Anxious Clubgoer*

    Posted a couple weeks ago about being nervous going to a club for the first time with some coworkers—many thanks to everyone who responded with tips! Pleased to report that everyone stayed safe, I had fun, we ended at a reasonable hour, and we’re doing karaoke next week. I’m even open to going again (though perhaps with another group, since it was a little hard to let loose dancing with this one).

  26. BlueMeeple*

    This is a slightly odd question: I seem to only post those on here!

    I’m part of a campaigning group, ( and passionate about), a current campaign to try to get six closed libraries re-opened and to stop any more libraries being closed or having their opening ours reduced etc.

    The outcome will be decided at a council meeting in December, and it’s not likely to be good with budgets etc.

    Is there a way to care less about this? Not to not care at all, but I find that I’m all or nothing as a rule, and all about this. I know that it’s likely that the six closed libraries will remain closed, and more could close or have their hours reduced. Is there a way to manage the disappointment if it does go badly?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Dublin liver*

      Perhaps having a plan for next steps to take if outcomes are bad? You’ll probably be exhausted but even a few small next actions you can take without too much thinking might help you feel a bit better.

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Try doing the “6 Fs” of Internal Family Systems on that quality (which is called a part in the link below) to get to know what it’s like and what it’s afraid of happening if you stopped advocating so hard. And then take that to the end – “what if that were true” and “what if that happened” and “what’s the worst part about that” and then ask what it needs.

    3. fposte*

      That library access is a long, long war and this is a comparatively small battle within it. You want yo keep your energy for the war. In real war, or in sports if you prefer a less violent analogy, getting stuck in emotional hindsight about the last loss makes it harder to win the new battle. Declare a mourning ritual and then find something new to fight for.

  27. Cookies For Breakfast*

    Writers of AAM, do you use a pen name? Why / why not? If you do, how did you choose it? (if you can share that without saying what it is)

    I would like one, because I don’t like the sound of my real name, which gets misspelled everywhere (including my home country). Also, I’m not keen on people I know in person / potential employers being able to Google me that easily. I don’t write “risky” content, but I’m a fairly private person at work, and my social media are only about my hobbies and non-work persona.

    I’m also finding it very hard to settle on a pen name, for more emotional reasons. A totally Anglophone name would be easy, but perhaps not right, because the country and context I grew up in are sometimes part of my writing. A different name from my culture also feels odd: I may not like the way my name sounds, but it, too, is part of my identity in ways I can’t quite shed.

    Am I overthinking? Does that mean (like I’m starting to suspect) that real name is the way to go? I’d like to send short stories to online magazines, and in an ideal future, I’ll be able to finish a novel one day. My social media name, at the moment, is only my first initial while I ponder all this.

    1. Deuceofgears*

      You’re not overthinking. I’m published under my wallet name because I made my first sale in college and was not thinking ahead to “So in 20 years when I have books out maybe I would prefer to be flying under the radar.” Because once your books are out there under your wallet name, that information will tend to stick around and/or propagate.

      I will say that if you are writing content that reviewers tend to classify as ownvoices in any regard (or that your publisher/marketing people wish to market that way), then having an Identifiable Name may sometimes be a consideration for culture/etc. stuff. It’s not necessarily great for everyone but it’s one of the realities of marketing at present. (I’m Korean-American and personally, one of my current projects is full of Latin and European mythology references because I am so tired of being pigeonholed and, I mean. I had a Western education and I’m writing in English!)

      And of course there are plenty of writers who have open pseudonyms to distinguish audiences/genres, where you know that “T. Kingfisher” and “Ursula Vernon” write different *kinds* of books even though it’s open knowledge it’s the same person. I have friends in indie who use different pen names for similar reasons – to differentiate the cozy mysteries vs. the steamy shifter romances vs. the thrillers or whatever. You can always reveal your true name later, but going the other way around is harder.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Thank you! If I go the pen name route, different names for different types of work may be what I’ll need in the long run. Then again, when it comes to social media and the amount of promotion and sharing authors are expected to take care of on their own, that may be a step too far for someone who already finds it challenging to keep up one very low-key profile where I’m not even talking about writing yet :P

        I sometimes wonder if I’ve brought this dilemma on myself by writing in English, and not setting any of my fiction in my home country / around characters that have my heritage (that’s where my creative nonfiction comes in). But the weird feelings around that are probably another story for another time.

    2. Queer Earthling*

      I…sort of? I use a name that isn’t my legal name. This is partly because I do write “risky topics” (I run an 18+ blog, write articles for other publications, and have both nsfw and sfw stories published under that name), and partly because I’m nonbinary and legally changing my name is expensive and time-consuming and generally difficult where I live.

      So the result is that the name I publish under is the name I now go by socially but not legally. The government, medical offices, etc know me by my wallet name. Should I be in a position to apply for a regular job again, I’d use my wallet name. But everyone I know, both friends and family, call me by what amounts to my publishing name, the name I have for my Amazon author profile, etc. etc. So my author name is “my” name, just not in the usual sense.

      That said, if you google either one, it’s a struggle to find me lol. My author/social name is shared with some sort of sports person so while I’m on the first page, it’s quite far down and easy to overlook. My wallet name doesn’t produce me at all; even if you do my wallet name and my location, you find an obituary so I don’t think that’s me.

      Perhaps more helpful to you: Maybe consider doing the initial + last name thing? Presumably if you’re applying for jobs you’d be using your full first name, so that’d create a bit of a divide and some anonymity, but it’ll still feel authentically you and that might help, especially with your cultural concerns.

      Also, don’t sweat it too much! You can always change your mind later, too! You can still list stuff published under a different name among your things, just note “Published as H Quinn” or whatever.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Your last paragraph reassured me. I tend to think of this as a deal set in stone, so I have to make the right choice now or regret it forever!

        The “first initial + last name” format is the one I keep coming back to. However, I grew up with the notion that I have an unusual last name impressed upon me everywhere. Most people back home write and / or pronounce it wrong, sometimes intentionally and ignoring my attempts to correct them. That’s puzzling, because it’s a short word, written exactly the way it’s pronounced. As for my present life, it’s not unusual to people because I live in a big multicultural city, but it looks and sounds very foreign, and spelling gets tricky.

        My ideal solution would be a way to tweak the spelling that a) makes it look different enough to feel like a new name TO ME, b) would be a plausible surname in real life, and c) is not one of the most frequent misspellings I’ve heard over the years, which I’ve had enough of. I haven’t been able to come up with a good one yet.

    3. Magda*

      I was happiest using a recognizable nickname version of my first name (but not one I actually go by) and my real last name, which I wish was a bit less discoverable but oh well. It is tough. I live in a state that puts property records in a public database, meaning it wouldn’t take much for a reader to find my house. I’m uncomfortable with that kind of thing. A light google would lead them to my job pretty quickly too. But that slight barrier of using a nickname does give me some emotional distance and prevents people from immediately making the connection. Another common one is to use your real first/middle names (or initials and middle name) … but as I said on the other thread, once you seriously get into the publishing business it’s a big advantage to be able to leverage your real-world connections to share your events in their networks, attend your readings, even just interact with your social media posts – using an unrecognizable pen name cuts those opportunities off.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Thanks! I get that completely – the thought that someone coming across my writing may want to find out my job or where I live is scary. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of others identifying me without my knowledge, and that’s part of why my social media profiles are either private, or not under my real name.

        The networking part worries me less, because I’m a terrible networker, so there is no network I’d tap into if I had, say, a book ready right at this moment. It’s something I need to work on (much as it fills me with dread), and I’ll be happier making more effort once I have settled the name dilemma.

    4. Anonymous for This*

      I first published under my real name, which was probably not the smartest thing to do, although luckily I didn’t face any negative consequences.

      But when I changed genres, writing for an over-18 readership, I chose a pen name. At the time I was making sales to anthologies, and I used it to answer writing questions at the now-defunct Yahoo Answers, basically ruining it because anyone who googled it found that rather than my fiction.

      Enter new pen name, which I’m keeping pure and unsullied. I’ve had two novels published, but the publisher folded, so sharing the current pen name wouldn’t take you to a point of sale.

    5. numptea*

      Mine is an uncommon shortening of my first name, plus my super-generic last name. For example if I were Elizabeth Smith, it would be like using Zabe Smith.

      Writing is a large part of my day job, and I did not want my fiction/poetry getting mixed in with that. Not because I’m ashamed of it, but just for sake of being able to compartmentalize and avoid distraction on the part of hiring managers. (I had a colleague at an old job who was an artist, and it definitely became her identity at that company.)

      Also, I’m old enough that this wasn’t originally my goal, but it turned out that using my actual name would have been very hard to optimize for searching because it’s so generic and there are multiple people already using it. One in SAG (not a household name though), one in government, and another in cybersecurity who’s big on the conference circuit.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        This is 100% what I would do if I had a super generic last name. I can come up with dozens of first names I’d be happy using, but the last name is the real tricky part.

        Then again, I wouldn’t be against using a shorter first name and my real last name. I don’t like shortening my real (long-ish) first name, but I’d like my writing to carry a name that sounds plausible both in my home country and where I live now. It’s probably easier to find a short first name that could be from anywhere (in my part of the world), than to rework my not very usual last name in any way.

        Thanks for getting me on that train of thought!

    6. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      A good friend of mine pondered that question shortly before their first book was published. We had long-ish talks about pros and cons and what felt right or wrong to them.

      They finally settled on using
      – their real first name
      – the first letter of their real last name as the initial for the middle name of their pen name
      – a made up last name derived from the real name of a emotionally close person

      An example that is far from the actual name:
      Thomas Lorton, who has a strong emotional bond to his grandfather William, uses the pen name Thomas L. Willson.

      That way, within the publishing circus people call them by their actual first name – which makes social interaction easier – but they will definitely not be found in real life by someone who googled their pen name.
      I thought that was a neat solution :)

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        It is indeed, thanks! Between your comment and the train of thought replying to numptea put me on, I have the prompts I was hoping for.

        Perhaps for me it could be something like new first name + real first initial + real last name. I feel like I’m starting to see workable solutions!

    7. Tiny clay insects*

      I’m a writer and I don’t use a pen name. my first novel is being published next year (only some random short stories until then) so we’ll see if I regret it. But it honestly just sounded too hard to keep track of.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        That made me smile – “too hard to keep track of” is exactly my main argument for “real name” at the moment. Now to see if it’ll be strong enough.

        All the best with your first novel and getting published, that sounds super exciting!

    8. HannahS*

      I’ve written exactly one article and have an Instagram under a pseudonym. I chose something with the same format as my real name; a Hebrew first name and Yiddish last name. It felt like a good alternative. My real name is extremely identifiable.

    9. Pseudonym*

      Pseudonym, unless you’re not working at anything else under your real name and never plan to again.

      Also because if your contract status goes south a publisher may end up owning the rights to the name you use even if it’s your real name. I’ve seen that get very, very messy.

  28. Sage*

    Do you know that feeling when you had a question for the AAM readers, but when Saturday comes, you forget what you wanted to ask?

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      Happens all the time for me or I find a problem with the question, like a way the discussion could go wrong.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I think of so many workplace ones during the week, and then by Friday my mind goes blank and I don’t post anything. I think that’s okay, as it shows my questions weren’t all that important LOL. On weekend posts I prefer to join other people’s topics generally unless I have a pet question.

    2. Can't Sit Still*

      Yes! But also, I’ve had responses go sideways, because I’m easily distracted, and before I know it, the discussion is going in a completely different direction than intended and I never got an answer to my real question. Which I may not have actually asked in the first place, because —- Squirrel!

    3. Esprit de l'escalier*

      Oh yes! I tell myself to keep a running list of questions/comments I want to submit on the weekend, but I don’t remember to do it :(

    4. tangerineRose*

      Yes. Regularly. I try to remember to write down that kind of questions, but frequently I forget to do that.

    5. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

      Every freakin’ week! Monday through Thursday shower thoughts are “oh, I should ask about that on AAM.” And Friday and Saturday are for forgetting them =’)

  29. The non-believer*

    Can a relationship between a devout religious person and a non-religious person work? I realise there are a great many variables, but what are your opinions?

    1. Rosie M. Banks*

      My sister (now retired) was an Episcopal priest who knew a lot of people in this situation. She said that it could work, as long as the couple worked through two potential problems.

      First, each partner has to truly respect the other’s beliefs and not expect the other person to change. So the religious person shouldn’t always be trying to convert their partner, and the non-religious one shouldn’t make snide remarks about believing in a “sky fairy” or whatever.

      Second, if there is any possibility of children, the couple has to agree on the religious (or non-religious) upbringing of the kids. She said that she had seen a lot of young couples who managed to “agree to disagree” on the topic of religion when it was just them, but realized when they had kids that each felt more strongly about their world-view than they had previously supposed.

      1. UKDancer*

        I think I’d agree. I mean it depends on the individuals. As a non-religious person I’d have a lot of reservations about dating a religious person because I don’t think we’d be compatible. I’ve dated men who were technically religious but very lapsed (a lot of British people just tick Anglican on the boxes for religion without believing in it or going to church) or culturally of a religion but didn’t believe in it. But I’d think long and hard before dating someone very devout and would probably not be keen because I am not sure it would be something we could overcome. But that’s just me.

        I think it’s something to be considered extremely carefully and discussed to ensure that neither party will press the other and that you are content about things like participating or not in religious activities, diet etc.

        1. Filosofickle*

          I occasionally revisit my thinking and debate it but…every time I realize that I simply can’t date a religious person. And I freely admit I’m the problem here, I’m the one that doesn’t respect the other. (Which is why I revisit it, it’s so closed-minded and that doesn’t fit with who I want to be.) With friends it’s fine but not a partner.

          Interestingly, I was once rejected by someone who said that they would have been fine with me being any religion, but my having no religion was a deal breaker.

      2. Two timeouts and 45 seconds*

        I’m married to an Episcopal priest and I’d describe myself as agnostic. We met at church when we were in college and they went to seminary shortly after we were married. I started reconsidering my faith while they were in seminary and now would say I don’t have any sense of faith.

        We have children, but they’re teenagers who typically don’t want to go to church anyway. When they were young I’d go pretty frequently but Covid + spouse getting a new call means that I’ve probably only gone 15-20 times in almost 4 years. I took a lot of religion classes in college and the Episcopal church is very enthusiastic about secular scholarship enhancing spiritual education, so I can usually answer questions the kids have and if I can’t, they just go to my spouse. Our kids do go to a religiously affiliated summer camp, but that’s because they like it. We’ve always been open about exploring their own paths and beliefs.

        My spouse is obviously aware of my own misgivings and doubts about Christianity/religion in general and we talk about it often. I think sometimes it can be hard for them, but our relationship is so much more than that particular value that it doesn’t cause much friction, if any. I certainly don’t lack people in my life who are skeptical about religion, so I can express my feelings to them if it’s something I think would upset my spouse. And we’ve talked at length about where my doubts/skepticism comes from and where their faith is based, so I 100% echo the need for mutual respect and approaching discussions with love and care.

        1. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

          Somewhat surprised to hear you/your kids don’t go often. In my religious group, the expectation for leadership’s families is pretty high

      3. AgreeOnKids*

        My best friend – an orthodox Jew – married a gentile. They had agreed any children would be raised Jewish. Their wedding almost fell apart the day before because he was having second thoughts. He did wind up recommitting to it and the wedding went ahead as planned. They’ve been married 20 years now and have a daughter who is, indeed, being raised Jewish.

      4. Cedrus Libani*

        I have dear friends who are religious, and I could imagine accepting a religious partner, but raising children with that person would be completely off the table. I know myself. Right or wrong, it’s my belief that religion isn’t safe for children…and if you try to harm my children, you’re no longer dealing with a polite, cosmopolitan adult who accepts that you have every right to your beliefs, you’re dealing with Mama Bear, and Mama Bear isn’t safe for anyone who gets in her way.

        Right or wrong, there are people who believe at least as strongly that religion must be taught to children, and to do otherwise is to endanger that child both here and hereafter. It’s best for all concerned (except possibly the local divorce lawyers, therapists, etc) if people like me don’t have children with people like that.

        That said, not everyone has that limitation. There are plenty of theists, even devout ones, who believe in multiple paths to the divine. There are also plenty of not-so-theists who believe that religion is a wholesome teaching tool for children, and who are content to raise the children with religion and let them make up their own minds when they’re old enough. Takes a lot of love and respect to pull that off, and I would not personally want to try, but I won’t say it’s impossible.

    2. Ellebelle*

      My mom is an atheist and my dad is a devout Catholic. They’ve never fought about religion to my knowledge, they’re far more likely to fight about practical things like chores or finances. It’s essential that they share the same (liberal) political beliefs. It’s also important that my dad believes there are many paths to heaven as long as you’re a good person. It wouldn’t work if he thought she was going to hell. It also helps that she recognizes how important religion is to him, and encourages him to go to church when he’s depressed. She also took me and my grandmother (dad’s mom) to church for six months, despite hating it, while dad was out of the country for work, which I thought was an important show of love. So it is definitely possible.

      1. Nicosloanica*

        Yeah I think it can work if both people are reasonably flexible, and don’t have contempt for each other’s perspective / religion. A non-religious person whose willing to attend church every week for six months is being far more accommodating than the average atheist I know.

    3. Sloanicota*

      I actually think religious + non religious can be a better combination than religious + different religious, often. There are some beliefs that are quite incompatible so if you both take them seriously it can be very tough, more so if there’s children involved (I have a friend who is devoutly jewish married to a person who is christian; the christian is happy to have the kids learn “jewish AND THEN” – but this does not at all work for my friend, as espousing the christian sequel erases the jewishness. It only goes one way).

    4. Blue Cactus*

      It can! My mom is a fairly devout Catholic (I say fairly because she is quite progressive on many social issues but goes to Mass at least once a week, does a lot of volunteering with her parish’s social outreach, and prays regularly), and my dad is an agnostic atheist. They both respect one another’s beliefs (or lack thereof), which I think is the most critical piece. They also agreed far in advance on how they would raise kids (Catholic with exposure to his reasoning and belief system). I think the mutual respect is the biggest key to success.

    5. Irish Teacher.*

      I think as well as other things, such as whether they respect beliefs other than their own, it depends on just what you mean by religious and non-religious, as it’s more of a spectrum.

      I think it could be difficult if you are talking somebody who is very devout and for whom religion is a very central part of their life and somebody who is adamant that no god could possibly exist and thinks that those who believe are just fooling themselves. But if you are talking somebody who believes in a god or gods and attends church maybe once a week and tries to live a good life but recognises there is no way of being sure and who is more hopeful than certain and somebody who tends towards the agnostic side of things – “I don’t see any reason to assume a god or gods exist, but I guess it’s possible; I’m not making any judgements either way,” then I don’t see why not.

    6. Anon Poster*

      I am a non-religious woman, and if I found myself on the verge of a relationship with a devoutly religious man, my deal-breaker would be how the religious beliefs impact political beliefs. I can co-exist happily and peacefully with someone who has different ideas about God/ the Universe/ how we got here/ where we go from here. Life is a mystery, and as a formerly religious person I appreciate the comfort and sense of community religion can bring to a person. But if our political beliefs don’t align, then we are not compatible people. And since for many people, their religion plays a role in how they vote, I would be paying very close attention to that as I got to know the person better.

    7. Be the Change*

      Something’s gonna give, either the relationship or the religion. I was the formerly extremely religious person in the relationship. Turned out the relationship was more important to me than the religion. Although I’m glad that I’m far more open-minded and happy now, I do miss that identity sometimes.

      And I STILL *really hate* when my husband goes all snarky and snide about religion, especially my former one.

    8. Generic Name*

      My grandparents. Grandma was a devout Southern Baptist. Grandpa was atheist. He drove her to church every Sunday and then he went to Hardee’s where he had breakfast and coffee and read the paper. They had a loving relationship that lasted over 50 years until grandpa died of cancer. I don’t know how they did it. I never saw them get even annoyed at one another. I think a relationship like that can work if both partners have a deep respect for the other and their thoughts and opinions. And if children are a possibility, an agreement on how the children are to be raises (within a religion or not).

    9. Nervous Nellie*

      I think another consideration is the social aspect of religion. If the religious person is very active in their faith community with lots of events, attendance and interactions with other members, the non-religious person may find themselves alone a lot or find they are repeatedly encouraged to join in, by their partner or the other religious members. How big an emotional and social commitment religion is to the religious person is something to be gently discussed. I think this holds true in any relationship where one party has a deep interest or commitment to any large thing in their lives.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        Nesting fail! My compliments on your comment, and my long reply, ended up below my separate question about hand laundry. (Rolls eyes at self.)

        1. Nervous Nellie*

          LOL! Thanks. I found your reply and think you should paste it in up here, as the logistics of a Kosher home is a great example of the impact of faith on all members in the home or in a relationship. There are implications in other faiths to be sure – fasting for Ramadan, regular calls to prayer throughout the day, regular attendance at worship. All are essentials for the religious person, and they can have an impact on others in their lives.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yeah I think I’d struggle to be in a relationship with someone who kept strict Kosher or wanted a Kosher house. I know from my Jewish colleagues that it’s a lot and I wouldn’t want to live by those rules.

            I dated a secular lapsed Jewish guy briefly when I was at university and he didn’t keep Kosher (apart from not eating pork). It wasn’t an issue (the vegan I dated before him was a lot more annoying about dietary stuff and wanted me to become vegan) but I think I probably would find someone devout and with a lot of religious rules to be incompatible with me on a personal level.

          2. Jean (just Jean)*

            I want to add another wrinkle: what if the religious person does not want to stop observing some rituals that will physically impact the non-religious person? To be precise I’m thinking about the custom of keeping a kosher home and kitchen. This can be mind-boggling, even to a Jewish person who did not grow up with this custom. I can only imagine the culture shock for someone encountering the whole system for the first time!
            All crazy-making details below. I write this with affection–I’m Jewish and I keep kosher.

            Keeping kosher means separating meat and dairy items and maintaining at least two sets of dishes, cutlery, utensils, pots, pans, mixing bowls, and food storage containers. Some people have three sets so that they can use cooked “neutral” (vegan) foods with either meat or milk. (Glass dishes, mixing bowls, and storage items may be multi-purpose under some conditions . Also, you will end up with additional sets of plates and utensils if you want different sets of good china and everyday dishes, or year-round crockery and Passover crockery.)

            Keeping kosher also means purchasing jarred, canned, frozen and take-out food according to an agreed-up set of standards. McDonald’s, Domino’s, Papa John’s, Pizza Boli, and most Chinese restaurants are not included.

            1. Nervous Nellie*

              Nice! Glad to see this here. This would certainly be an adjustment for anyone not accustomed to it.

              As for McD’s and Domino’s, you’re not missing much!

    10. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I’m Jewish raised in a very unobservant but not quite secular family. I knew I wanted to raise my children Jewish with some degree of Jewish education which meant at minimum joining a synagogue and observing holidays at home. My husband was raised liberal Baptist (yes, there is such a thing) and by the time we met he was a card-carrying atheist who no longer considered himself a Christian. Since we were working on a production of “Godspell” when we started dating, we spent the first three weeks of our relationship talking about religion. He respected my beliefs and was willing to have a Jewish home and Jewish children. So yes, it is possible. If I’d been more observant when we got together it would have been more challenging (I doubt he would have been willing to keep kosher, for example) but not impossible.

      As other commenters have said it requires a deep level of respect. Neither of us disparaged the other’s belief or tried to compel the other one to change their mind. We incorporated his favorite family Christmas traditions into our lives because who doesn’t love a Swedish spiced cookie or coffeecake? Nearly 40 years on we still host a brunch on Christmas when we’re home. Our Jewish friends love it.

      He converted to Judaism after we’d been married almost 15 years in large part because he was welcomed in our community and nobody pushed him, so he had a chance to make up his own mind. It would have been fine with me if he hadn’t. We still have different ideas about Gd, and that’s also fine.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        Wishing you and your husband and family many, many, more years of happiness.
        It’s dusty at my computer desk, or maybe I’m just feeling the effects of a mild cold.

    11. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      My aunt was very non-religious and her husband was a Mass-every-morning super-devout Catholic. They got married in 1942, and were married until he died about 35 years later. I’m a nontheist and my husband is Catholic, and we’ve been married over 40 years. Yes, it can work.

    12. sulky-anne*

      I think if they have similar values, yes. I am not religious but I have a lot of respect for people with sincere religious beliefs. I would have no problem being in a relationship with a religious person if our values were aligned and they respected my lack of religion (which in my case is mostly circumstantial–I wasn’t raised with any religion).

      Perhaps anyone who feels that religion is a private matter would have an easier time with this. But people who are very cliquey and exclusive on either side of the equation would likely struggle.

    13. Irish Teacher.*

      Having read through the answers, I also think this is going to differ depending on the specific religion (or denomination thereof). I think it would be more difficult with religions that are very evangelical or which believe strongly that all non-believers are going to be punished in some way or with religions that have social views that well, wouldn’t fit with the society around them, like a religion which believed in very traditional gender roles.

      While some people might manage it, I think it would be hard for somebody who truly believed that not believing in their religion meant eternal punishment to both remain with that person and not push religion on them.

      Different religions have different views on this stuff and I think some would be easier to negotiate that others. And of course, even within religions, people interpret things very differently.

      1. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

        Yes, exactly. In practice, this does not really work in my religion. In order to get married in our church, one member of the couple must be a member of the Church, and the other can be a member of a different denomination, but they must have had a trinitarian baptism (at any point, including as an infant). If a believing person gets married outside of the church, they are excommunicated (a temporary state that can be resolved by going to confession). So you pretty much have to pick.

        1. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

          I should add that my husband had been seeking *something* and decided that my lifelong religion would do the job. He did convert and somehow started volunteering for all sorts of ministries, it brings me an unimaginable amount of joy. His conversion process was so intense it actually made ME more devout.

      1. feline outerwear catalog*

        I know a few people who did this, the non-religious ones were forced? pressured? into getting married in the church, baptizing and raising the kids in the religious person’s religion. If you love someone and want to compromise I suppose it’s workable but from the outside this looks manipulative. Especially if you want kids and want them to decide for themselves when they are older. One couple was going to do that but finally caved to pressure from the family.

    14. allathian*

      Yes, it can work, but it requires genuine respect for the other person’s right to their own opinions. One of my best online friends is an Atheist and his wife’s a devout Christian, and they’ve been married for more than 25 years. Granted, they’re childfree, so they’ve avoided that issue at least.

    15. Jessica*

      Many people where I live follow a religion whose teachings are that (a) after my life ends, I will be tortured for all of eternity; (b) the being that will cause this to happen is benevolent, good, and deserves worship; and (c) I deserve this punishment.

      I have no problem getting along casually with many of these people, and have even had some among my friends, because sometimes they’re either good at compartmentalizing, or don’t sincerely believe what their religion teaches. But having an intimate committed relationship with someone who says they “love” me, but believes the above about me, is inconceivable.

  30. Llellayena*

    Tapping the collective for ideas since the internet keeps spitting out the same ones. Star Wars/Star Trek crossover cosplay wedding. Need ideas for some basic decorations for both ceremony and reception. Right now the guests will be greeted at the ceremony with a yoda sign saying “sit or sit not, there are no sides” and the reception bar will have a “Quark’s Cantina” sign. Any other ideas, big or small are welcome!

    1. Pippa K*

      If you have enough wedding party members/ushers, a saber arch with light sabers is clearly the way to go!

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      All my ideas involve stuff I already have in my house, so maybe not very useful if your budget is limited, but figurines or similar in your centerpieces? There’s a ton of different Star Wars funko pops you could use, depending on what kind of characters you were looking for, I think I have eight different Leias and a half dozen Chewies :)

    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      For the lightsaber arch, can you do something less expensive than purchasing multiple plastic toys? Maybe create rolls of paper or thin cardstock in the appropriate diameter and color (pale neon green or yellow, or pale yellow, or plain white)?
      Or, if your budget allows, buy the toys and donate them to a bunch of soon-to-be-delighted kids?

    4. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Not a Star Wars fan but long-time partnered with a Star Trek fan, so all my ideas are Star Trek xD Sorry!

      – tng communicator-shaped name plates for the seating arrangement or maybe as napkin rings
      – the menu or maybe the drinks menu written like the screen of a replicator (you know, tea – earl grey – hot)
      – photo booth utensils: Spock’s eyebrows, Picard’s bald head, klingon forehead, vulcan salute (because some people have a hard time doing that themselves), tng communicator, phaser, og communicators, … (Star Wars, obviously Yoda ears, Leia buns, Chewy sash, lightsaber, …)
      – Tribbles as decorations for the tables, buffet table, or maybe as part of the wedding favours (I found an online diy instruction for making then; should be really easy and not too time consuming; link follows in a reply)
      – those wooden or metal cubes with a crocodile clip on a metall stick that you can use for photos and cards and stuff but decorated like borg cubes and to hold the food labels for the buffet

      That’s all I can think of atm. Maybe you like some of them or they at least give you inspiration :)
      Also, I obviously have no ideas based on ds9, voyager or any of the newer series – not because of any ill will but simply because I think design-wise the original series and tng are just the most recognisable. And you are of course already giving a nod to it by naming the bar accordingly! Incorporating the shape of deep space nine into your decorations would of course also be really cool but I have no idea whatsoever how to do that xD

      1. Llellayena*

        I like these! Trek is where we’re mostly missing ideas. Star Wars is much easier to find things for as it’s more recently popular. Tribbles and Borg cubes!

    5. Mitchell Hundred*

      I’m not sure how exactly to word this, but maybe something about stormtroopers having bad aim? Because stormtroopers in the Star Wars universe have infamously bad aim, and finding the person you want to marry is kind of like hitting the bullseye on a target. Seems like there’s something there, I don’t know.

      A statement along the lines of “These *are* the vows/rings/spouses you’re looking for” seems like a gimme.

      Maybe signs directing people where to go that say “This is the way” on them?

    6. Nervous Nellie*

      Oooh, for any signage, seating cards, invitations, whatever, there is a wealth of free fonts online that are similar to Star Trek & Star Wars fonts. A nice touch that would tie to the theme.

      And best wishes to you both – may you live long & prosper!

  31. Qwerty*

    Volunteering ideas!

    I got to use a drill press at a volunteer event this week for building furniture which was a lot of fun so I’m looking for similar types of volunteer gigs (can’t use the same org, they don’t have any events until spring). It was hugely helpful to do something with my hands and so nice to be back in machine shop – normally my volunteer stuff is more people interactions or STEM focused.

    1. What other construction / building / machine-esqe orgs are there where someone could show up for a Saturday? I did high school robotics so I can do simple stuff in a machine shop with a refresher (20yrs later). Habitat for Humanity is the only one I know and they don’t have openings for individuals.

    2. Sewing items that tend to be in need? The drill press felt similar to my sewing machine, which has been gathering dust since I gave up on my last project. All I’m finding is the no-sew fleece blankets. Is there a site that aggregates the more crafty requests? (Already checked VolunteerMatch)

    My preference is stuff that helps local, but I don’t have contacts in my city so hoping I can find local chapters of bigger orgs. This week was really eye opening on how the hardship in my city is a lot worse than I thought

    1. Maryn*

      Habitat doesn’t have opening for individuals? How odd. That was the only way to volunteer back when my husband did it.

      Where I live, there was a recent story in the paper about a group that builds beds out of wood for kids who don’t have beds of their own. Naturally I can’t find it now, but it might have been through Sleep in Heavenly Peace. Check whether they’re in your area?

      If you have sewing skills, I saw some items you could make on a recent VA wish list. They wanted totes that attach to walkers and wheelchairs, pajamas (especially large sizes), cotton handkerchiefs, and lap quilts small enough for wheelchair users. Skilled nursing facilities can use these items, too, plus bibs that look like a shirt front or scarf.

    2. Just a Name*

      My husband volunteers at the local marine museum. It’s got a lot of old boats that need work, like patching, varnishing/painting, even building small boats. They also use scrap lumber to make toy boats that kids can assemble during special events. Although it isn’t always weekend work, I’m guessing that varies by organization. We also have an outdoor sculpture garden nearby, and they look for volunteers with all skills, not just art.