My question is not exactly high-stakes, but I’m having some anxiety about this situation all the same, and not sure what to do.
I (she/her) started using OkCupid recently, and a couple days ago, my coworker (he/him) who I don’t know well but see around often (we work at a very small company) sent me a message. I know it can be fun to send a couple silly messages back and forth when you see your friends on these sites without making it weird, but I don’t think this is that.
Anyway, if I see coworkers on dating sites, I think the polite thing to do is just ignore it and move along, so I was not super into the fact that this guy messaged me but I figured he was just being kind of socially obtuse. His message implied that he was going to ask me out “until he realized who I was,” which made me immediately uncomfortable. Dude, if you realized that, why did you message me anyway and tell me that?
I felt like ignoring him might make things weird at work, so I just messaged back noncommittally (like, “Ha, look who it is”), hoping I could move the conversation to peter out without making it awkward. However, things got awkward anyway, because coworker continued sending messages despite my polite attempts to disengage (“[Cool, unsolicited weekend plan you shared] sounds fun. Anyway, see you Monday!” …and then he’d send another message trying to continue the conversation.) I read and did not respond to the last message.
I’m sure I should communicate that I feel uncomfortable chatting with a coworker on a dating site, so do you have any scripts for that? Or would it be better to just block him and pretend it never happened? In hindsight, I feel like there are other things I could have said or done to end the conversation sooner, but that’s only now that I know I wasn’t able to end it without confrontation. It might be useful in general to know how to stop an inappropriate interaction like this in the future, so what would you have done?
It’s not inherently weird to be on the same dating site as other people you know in other contexts. It feels weird because the illusion of privacy has been punctured for a moment, but it’s not actually that strange. The awkwardness is in what people do about it.
I believe I have shared the story of the Shadowy Dating Juggernaut where Commander Logic and I and both of her roommates and a few other friends in the Bespectacled Bookish Brunettes of Chicago Knitting Circle And Culinary Society were on OkCupid at the same time, right? It was inevitable that streams would cross and one of us would bring a dude we were dating to a party and watch him slowly figure out where he knew the rest of us from…because if you liked one of us enough to write to you probably liked all of us…and that we all knew each other….and that we had definitely had been trading notes about him behind the scenes in the name of safety, solidarity, and hilarity.
When seeking romance (etc.) on the great wide Internet it is inevitable that we will run across people we know in other contexts. Like you, my strategy has been either to totally ignore it or to be like “Oh, ha, look who it is. See you at work, Work Person!” and then drop the conversation completely. Whether I ignored or said something depended a lot on context and the vulnerability of what was on display in their ad. “My mom and my friends say I’m funny and I like long walks on the beach and living life to the fullest” guy got a “hey, hilarious that we’re both here, good luck bro!” Someone revealing kinks or more explicit sexual content or desires just got ignored and in some cases insta-blocked more so that I wouldn’t make THEM uncomfortable or feel like they were being monitored. Mostly my attitude was “No shame, no foul, and no gossip unless you do something actually creepy.” And if it ever came up at work, I’d be like “Whoa, awkward, right? I won’t talk about it if you won’t, and heyyyyyyy good luck out there buddy!” #don’tcrossthestreams
Another true story: Years ago colleague who was new in town messaged me once on OK Cupid and we went for a friendly coffee before we knew we’d be working together. Then we got assigned to co-teach a class. Upon being “introduced” at work, we never mentioned or even hinted that we had met each other before in any other context. Yay professionalism!
If your coworker has got overall good intentions and is also feeling awkward about what to do next like, “aaaaahhhhh, I started this, do I have to keep emailing her now back and forth forever, ugh, so awkward?” he will gratefully take your lead. And if he’s not taking your lead, like now? Then don’t reply to anything else via the dating site, or, reply once to say “Hey, let’s wind this conversation down, I’m not interested in connecting here, see you at work” or “Hey, let’s block each other here so it’s not super-weird to have a coworker hanging out whenever we log in, ok? Good luck out there!” and then block him. Blocks are not mean. Blocks are often necessary to make a social site usable.
Then, keep work conversations only about work and wait for the awkward levels to normalize.
And, if your colleague won’t drop the subject and starts bringing it up at work, making you feel like he’s monitoring your dating and sex life, and making your life weird at work? DOCUMENT THE EVERLOVING SHIT OUT OF IT. America needs about 100,000,000 uncomfortable training sessions led by HR right now.
This post is related, but only slightly, to the Nouman Ali Khan (NAK) scandal (in which a religious leader used his power to harass and threaten women, as MMW explored in a recent roundtable). I don’t want to talk about NAK, but I do want to talk about the idea of spiritual abuse, a concern which has come to light as a result of the actions of this particular spiritual leader.
Across social media spiritual abuse has been explained as a spiritual leader’s use of their power in the community to control and manipulate followers. AltMuslim recently published a helpful piece on how to recognize a spiritual abuser. They write:
“Spiritual abusers leverage religion as a way of securing personal power over our consciousness. They use God as the basis for their claims against our will, and use the community’s needs as a claim against our rights.”
Additionally they state:
“An imposter or spiritual abuser, on the other hand, is intensely and methodically dedicated to the cultivation of an image, a disguise, a false personality — not necessarily to perhaps conceal their true selves from others but worse, to control them.”
All this is true and as a community we would be wise to heed their words of advice. However, I believe this definition and conceptualization of spiritual abuse is incomplete. In fact, I believe that by omitting other forms of spiritual abuse, our efforts to combat the type of spiritual abuse outlined in the AltMuslim article, will not be useful.
Spiritual abuse is using religion to control or manipulate others’ behaviours and thoughts, and it can be done by anyone. It is using religion to instill a type fear and guilt in others that leads to self-hatred or self-shame. Spiritual abuse occurs when one’s freedom to choose their relationship with God is discouraged and replaced with the imposition of another’s views of how that relationship must be. Spiritual abuse occurs when we use religion to oppress others.
Spiritual abuse can happen when a woman is told that she may choose to either wear the hijab or displease Allah. Spiritual abuse occurs when a non-fasting individual is told they are weak. Spiritual abuse occurs when a Muslim with a mental illness is told their iman (faith) is weak. Spiritual abuse occurs when a wife is told that if she refuses to have sex with her husband she is angering God. Spiritual abuse occurs when children are told that if they misbehave God will punish them. Spiritual abuse occurs when a person who has chosen to become Muslim is, implicitly or explicitly, told they are not “real Muslims.” Spiritual abuse occurs when we are told to truly fear God. And by fear I don’t mean ‘respect’ or ‘obey.’ I mean be afraid, be very afraid of God.
So, can we have an honest discussion on spiritual abuse and how pervasive it truly is in our communities? Can we talk about the daily forms of spiritual abuse that occur? Can we talk about the daily forms of spiritual abuse which have become so normalized that when more extreme forms of spiritual abuse occur our first inclination as a community is to deny they’re even happening, or to blame the victim (because, in case you didn’t notice, NAK has been spiritually abusing women for a long time)?
These questions may seem simple, but we need answers to them. We have too many victims/survivors of spiritual abuse in our communities.
There’s a lot of science (and pseudo-science) out there about gender differences and how they affect the way we think. Intelligent people, male and female, often disagree about what exactly it all means, and how evolution has selected for male promiscuity, female passivity, and a host of other stereotypes about the sexes.
Saini has a go at untangling some of this, discussing inherent bias in the researchers looking at this kind of thing, and alternate models that are available for understanding gender differences. She’s definitely successful at making the conversation more complex. For example, a lot of theories have rested on similarities between humans and their close relatives, chimpanzees. Saini points out that other research has shown that bonobos are equally closely related to us, and they have an entirely different social structure.
It seems that easy answers aren’t available, but there are many theories, with supporting evidence, that suggest women have been equally important in forming the human race. That would be my belief, simply because (as Saini points out) pregnancy and childbirth are definitely an important point at which selection will act, particularly in humans where we seem to be dependent on having other support.
An interesting read, but nothing that I think is revolutionary or likely to convince people that male and female brains aren’t physically different in structure. Note: if you think of gender as being a spectrum rather than a binary, be aware that this book definitely treats it as a binary with two distinct sexes. It doesn’t touch on transgender men/women at all.
The title pretty aptly describes the book. It is a fun romp, as others have described, but I seriously think the writing needs tightening up — the plot jerks ahead with little sense of time passing (all of a sudden, two characters have known each other for five years — since when?! I thought they met a couple of months ago!) and there doesn’t seem to be a comfortable ending. It sort of goes, “Oh, and another thing.” And a couple of events rely on sexual assault, which… jdnsjgn. The author deals reasonably well with the character’s feelings afterwards, but it’s used twice as a vehicle for “this guy is really nasty, and oh the plot is moving”. Not my favourite trope, by far.
Also, also, the love interest once yells at the main character for very little reason except that someone told him she lost his baby, when she wasn’t intending to tell him she’d ever been (briefly) pregnant. He loses it and calls her a slut, etc, as do other people in the building. It’s more or less out of nowhere and out of character — and she forgives him with shocking ease.
It just didn’t quite come together for me, and honestly at times I wondered if I was reading the same book as other people. I don’t think I’ll be continuing with the series.
Ages ago, I read Jo Walton’s reviews of the Vlad Taltos books and resolved to read them immediately. I did pick up this first book, but after that failed to carry on, even though the first book is good and Jo’s reviews fascinating. There’s a lot going on in this world, and I really want to read more of the books to get a better grasp on it. In the meantime, Vlad Taltos himself is snarky, moderately capable, and definitely capable of getting himself into trouble. A winning combination – even without Looish, his jhereg companion.
It’s a fun beginning, which leaves a lot of questions unanswered (and sometimes even barely posed). This time, I mean it; I’ve gotta get on and read the rest!
Good morning, folks! I’m finally better from my cough… at least mostly, though if you look at me wrong I might go off into a little coughing fit, alas. I’ve just ordered a bunch of background reading for my course, but it hasn’t all arrived yet, so I only have a small stack of books to share this week: a couple of ARCs and a novella.
Oh, and here’s the obligatory away-from-buns bunny picture:
Received to review:
I’ve already read Close Encounters with Humankind, which is pretty fascinating; I can’t remember the summary of Valiant Dust, so that one’s going to be a surprise…
I’ve been curious about this since N.K. Jemisin mentioned it in her column, so I picked it up with what was left of an Amazon voucher after buying stuff related to my classes.
Read this week:
A bit better week for reading, this week! Here’s hoping I get back into top form soon…
Reviews posted this week:
–The Hammer and the Cross, by Robert Ferguson. A little dry and very detailed; a very good read for someone who’s really interested, though. 4/5 stars
–A Very British Murder, by Lucy Worsley. A fun book covering the evolution of crime fiction in the UK, and people’s love of it. 4/5 stars
–Machiavelli: A Man Misunderstood, by Michael White. Another good biography from White. 4/5 stars
–The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Walter Tevis. I didn’t love this, but the way it ended was perfect — it made so much sense with what we see in reality. Hence, 4/5 stars
–The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden. This didn’t quite work for me, and I’m not sure why. I guess it felt rather predictable/typical in some ways. 3/5 stars
–How We Got To Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World, by Steven Johnson. Good points and a pretty entertaining read, but nothing earth-shatteringly surprising. 3/5 stars
–The Lost City of Z, by David Grann. Really, I want the book about the archaeology being done now, rather than about Victorian explorers, but it’s reasonably entertaining all the same. 3/5 stars
–WWW Wednesday: The weekly update on what I’m reading.
How’re you doing? Comment here to let me know, and don’t forget to provide a link so I can visit you in return!
Things to Know About!
- The University of Toronto is currently looking for Muslim women who wear hijab to participate in a study exploring the experiences of hijabi women in sports in Canada.
- In Iran, women weightlifters can now officially compete in the sport. However, it remains unclear whether or not they will be expected to wear hijab while competing.
- The Indian government will “allow” women over 45 to travel for Hajj in groups of four without a mahram. However, this policy change is said to be related to Saudi Arabia recent shift in terms of policies and laws affecting women.
- This week it was confirmed that Sally Jones, also known as “white widow” or “jihadi bride,” was killed by US drones in Syria in June 2017. However, DNA evidence is impossible to retrieve from the site and neither the US government nor the British one can be certain of her death. Jones was a person of interest for the Pentagon and it is thought to be one of ISIS main recruiters.
- Saudi street artist and PhD candidate Saffaa created “I AM My Own Guardian,” a body of artwork protesting Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system. Saffaa says the work was never meant to become a campaign or a movement, but her art has gone viral.
- Egyptian illustrator, Eman Wasef, creates portraits focusing on empowering women.
- DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is introducing a Muslim-American superhero. Zari is a Muslim hacktivist from the future. The role will be played by actress Iranian actress Tala Ashe.
The Wall of Shame…
- Aisha Ahmad, the recently appointed deputy governor of Nigeria’s central bank, has been criticized by some people over her “immodest wardrobe.” Ahmad is a highly accomplished Muslim woman with a lot of experience in the banking sector.
- ISIS is reportedly recruiting Muslim women by stating that it is a Muslim woman’s duty to support “the mujahideen in this battle.”
- In Quebec, Public Safety just halted the use of an RCMP questionnaire that singled out Muslim asylum seekers. The questionnaire was deemed “inappropriate” after it asked opinions about head coverings and issues of terrorism.
Great Pieces by Muslim Women
I’ve been meaning to read The Lost City of Z for ages, especially since I read Douglas Preston’s The Lost City of the Monkey God. I’m not here for the exotic diseases and epic endurance of hacking through the jungle, though: I’m interested in the archaeology, and the resolution of the mysteries. Where are these cities, and did they exist at all? The Lost City of Z is interesting in terms of the exotic diseases, larger than life explorers and hacking through the jungle, along with some history of that drive to explore, and less so in actually finding the archaeology. It’s mostly focused on figuring out what happened to Percy Fawcett and his son on their final attempt at finding Z, as well as tracing their lives up to that point; less interesting to me, though it has its moments.
The last chapter, in which an archaeologist who lives in the Amazon actually explains where he thinks the great vanished cities are, is the most interesting to me. There’s echoes of the ritual landscape of Stonehenge and Avebury in his description of the palisade walls and ditches dug around the settlement — combined with the power of the jungle just reaching up and strangling all those remaining signs. That’s the book I find I really want, written by a Francis Pryor or Mike Parker Pearson of the Amazon.
Dear Captain Awkward,
Happy Thursday! I hope you are having a great week so far. I wanted to ask your opinion on how to best handle my husband when he gets angry and upset and how I can better help us move towards having a happier marriage.
Some background: My husband and I are pretty nostalgic, and we both enjoy reminiscing on past things (I feel like I tend to be more in the present, but just because I think that doesn’t mean that is true). We met in college and hit it off. We had a great group of friends who we keep up with and we both got jobs about an hour away from our hometown/college town. The trouble is, he seems like he’s been upset ever since graduating. I totally get that, as school was a lot of fun and it was great being able to learn so many things (we are both engineers) and meet different types of people.
Fast-forward to now. We got married in 2012. Our marriage isn’t the greatest, and we usually do things on our own around the house and do not spend much time together. He constantly pines for the college days and constantly complains about how much things have changed and how people disappoint him and how much he hates his job. Both he and I are pretty selfish people who suffer from anxiety and depression, and I constantly feel like I’m forced to do things for him and on his schedule to try to keep him happy.
My husband likes to unwind after work, and his unwinding time got so long that I would find other things to do. I got involved in a dance class where we live now which has allowed me to make friends and to keep in shape. My husband has been watching a lot of youtube and complains about how he feels he is getting fat. Neither of us are super great at keeping up with the house, however I feel like I am the one who usually ends up cleaning and taking care of those type of things. He also likes to complain that when I go to dance (I am currently a competitive dancer, so I dance 2 days a week) I am out of the house for much longer than I really am, and that all I do revolves around dance. I do not feel like this is true, as I constantly skip events and I have drawn back on how involved I was in comparison to when I first started. I have made lots of friends with this activity and it’s a great social outlet for me. I do not want to quit, but he keeps dropping ultimatums. Of course, he doesn’t have his own hobby, aside from watching TV and reading the news, and neither of us have a hobby that we share.
Since my husband is so set on his college days, he is very attached to that group of friends. Unfortunately, since they do not live close by, we do not see them nearly as much as we did (why would we? We don’t live a mile away anymore!). When we do make plans to see them, whether it’s last minute or no, my husband expects me to drop everything to make it happen. He will not visit with them on his own, as he says that it’s important that I’m there to share the experience with him. I have trouble believing this because I feel like he usually tries to police my behavior in front of them and gets upset when I do not act the way he wants me to. We have tentatively gotten involved with some work friends in our area, but he is always on edge about doing things with them, and if any event conflicts with a change to see college friends, he always chooses the college friends.
He is very in touch with his emotions, however he is not very good at reflecting on himself. He has a bad habit of talking about heavy issues through emails at work, while he doesn’t like to discuss things at home. Sometimes he can lay it on thick and really tear into my personality and how awful of a person I am and how much I am hurting him (I get called names pretty consistently). This sometimes has a really bad effect on my attitude and makes it really hard to mask at work. Other times I’m able to ignore it and get on with my day, only to have him write to me the next day that I didn’t have time for him and he feels neglected.
I am a very active person, and I feel like I have no support in this marriage. I cannot talk to my parents or his parents about this, to save face. I feel like I am constantly changing my plans to suit his needs and wants only to get yelled at about it all later on, or to be told bluntly everything that is wrong with my personality and my thought process. It’s an extremely negative environment and I am having a lot of trouble handling it. Unfortunately, for the last 5 or 6 years, it’s been a weekly occurrence. I started seeing a counselor, which has helped a little, but it’s a process that will take a long while.
I have also read a LOT of relationship articles and books to try to understand how he feels and things that I can do to change it. (I’m not trying to make myself out as a “holier-than-thou” type of person, even though I am sure that’s exactly what I’m doing, but I would like to illustrate that I am trying). None of it seems to be making a difference, and it’s really difficult to make myself continuously try when nothing seems to work at all. I get discouraged and I don’t want to keep trying.
Both of us are too lazy to divorce and I’m (relatively) Catholic, so I don’t think that’s something I’d want to do in the end anyway.
Just would like someone else’s perspective. If this email is ignored, I totally get it, as you’ve addressed issues like this a lot. Also, my apologies for being such a poor writer.
Worn Out, I’m really sorry this is happening to you. It is not your fault. Nothing that is happening right now is your fault.
I going to talk to your husband for a sec, ok? He will probably never read this and in fact I don’t recommend that you show him this post but I have some stuff to say:
Dude. Here is a list of things you can do besides pressuring your wife to quit the fun thing that she loves doing, yelling at her, and sending her mean emails when she’s at work:
- Treat your anxiety and depression like the serious conditions they are. Whether that means finding a therapist or counselor, getting a full health screen where you tell your doctor about having a low mood and being irritable and discuss medications, or using tools to self-manage if counseling is not possible right now, there are steps that you (and you alone) can take to try to feel better.
- Get a hobby.
- Join a MeetUp group and meet more people.
- Take an evening class in something that interests you.
- Check out the UFYH website and start cleaning the house once in a while.
- Go see your college friends by yourself sometimes. You are not 4. You don’t need mommy to come on your playdates.
- Those long emails about serious, negative topics that you’re writing and sending while your wife is at work or at dance class? Write that shit in a journal. Get the feelings out of your head and onto the page. Then, don’t send them to your wife.
- Repeat after me: “I am responsible for working to make a happy life for myself. My wife is not responsible for my social relationships with others or my happiness.“
- If you really do need constant companionship at home and feel lonely when your wife is out, consider a pet.
- Wash your hair. Work out. Do a crossword puzzle. Use compressed air to clean out your computer keyboard and marvel at the grossness. Stare at the ceiling. Bingewatch every show that starts with P on Netflix. Do literally anything else besides yell at your wife.
Depression and anxiety don’t happen by choice, but being mean to your wife is a choice. You have a lot of choices about how to try to make a happy life for yourself and how to self-soothe when you feel sad. You are choosing to yell at your wife, derail her plans, try to drag her away from dance (thereby isolating her from friends and something she loves), and send her horribly critical emails. Here’s a list of common emotional abuse signifiers. This letter is checking off more than half of them, so, congratulations, you are emotionally abusing your wife. If hearing that hurts your feelings and scares you, good! Your behavior is mean and scary! You should be ready to move mountains to figure out how to stop it and do better.
Okay, Letter Writer, let’s talk. You can’t change your husband’s feelings or his behaviors or his choices. You can’t singlehandedly help him recapture the magic of college. You can’t make your life small enough that he won’t be threatened and resentful and mean to you. You can’t make your entire world revolve around this sad, lazy man. You are doing a ton of work (reading relationship books, etc.) and he is doing zero work to make the relationship better. It’s time to apply the Sheelzebub Principle, namely, if things stayed exactly like they are and nothing got better, how long would you stay? It’s already been bad for five years, so, would you stay another year? Another 5 years? Another 10? The rest of your life? Inertia is powerful and the Catholic church does frown on divorce but the Catholic church also doesn’t have to hang out with this dude day in and day out and you do. If you want to serve God in your life there are lots of ways to do that and staying in a marriage for form’s sake or martyring yourself to this man’s struggle to feel as cool as he did in college is not the only way.
I’m glad you have a counselor, please stick with that. I’m glad you have a hobby that you love, please stick with that and do not ever give it up for another person. In my opinion it’s time to at least talk to a divorce lawyer even if it’s just to get a picture of what the process will look like, so that you can make an informed decision. There’s a site called The Lilac Tree that some people I know have found helpful, use it if it’s useful to you.
Here are some scripts and strategies for you:
- It’s okay to filter his emails and not look at them when you’re at work. Don’t delete them – they are documentation of how bad things have gotten that you can show a counselor (or a lawyer) – but maybe set up a filter so they bypass your inbox. He is not allowed to electronically yell at you while you are at work! I hate so much that he does this, like, any minute you are away from him he has to somehow crawl in and poison it. You can tell him you’re not reading them – “I don’t have time to read emotional discussions at work, let’s talk about it later” – or, you can just quietly take care of yourself around this.
- It’s okay to say “I can’t go to [college friends] event, I have a conflict. You should go and have fun.” And not cancel your plans. And if he won’t go without you, that’s his decision. And if he yells at you or sulks remember: He was going to do that anyway, no matter what you did. He was going to criticize everything you said and did in front of your friends. Him: “I won’t go without you.” You: “Ok, that’s your choice.”
- You’ve read a lot of books about relationships, so, howabout one more? There’s a book called Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft that is oft-recommended here. Here’s a quote:
“The abusive man’s high entitlement leads him to have unfair and unreasonable expectations, so that the relationship revolves around his demands. His attitude is: “You owe me.” For each ounce he gives, he wants a pound in return. He wants his partner to devote herself fully to catering to him, even if it means that her own needs—or her children’s—get neglected. You can pour all your energy into keeping your partner content, but if he has this mind-set, he’ll never be satisfied for long. And he will keep feeling that you are controlling him, because he doesn’t believe that you should set any limits on his conduct or insist that he meet his responsibilities.”
― Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
Bolding mine. Um, sound like anyone we know?
4. If you are capable of becoming pregnant and you don’t have children already, use a contraception method that doesn’t depend on him to succeed and one that he can’t easily sabotage. Lock it down for now.
I’m really sorry you’ve ended up here, but again, it’s not your fault. Nothing you have ever done could make you deserve this behavior from your husband. And the sad truth is that there is nothing you can do, no book you can read, no work you can do, no emotional labor you can perform, no magic words you can say that can turn an unhappy mean person into a happy kind one without his effort and participation. It’s time to protect yourself and invest in yourself. I wish you safety, and peace, and a lot of dancing.