Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, which is the sequel to Six of Crows, but really it's the second half of the brick it would have been if published together. I loved the additional character revelations and development, but I think that unlike nearly everyone else, I liked the first book a bit more. This book felt as though there was too much shoved into it, particularly in the last third; I found myself getting bored and wanting it to just be over, already, which is not how you want to feel while reading something you otherwise enjoy a lot! Also, it seemed to me that the narrative depended, even more than the first, on holding back information from the reader (as opposed to from the characters), which is fine once or twice but gets tiresome when repeated constantly, especially when there's an air of "look how clever the characters are! Look how clever the author is!" and I got a bit annoyed with this device.
There are some interesting and appealing relationships, both m/f and m/m, but as I mentioned last week, I also ship the noncanonical but subtextual Nina/Inej. But in general I really liked all the main characters, and I liked all the canonical relationships to some degree. Also I am in need of a crossover with Gentleman Bastards or Old Theradane.
What I'm reading now:
The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #3) by Rick Riordan, YAY! And it's delightful. Though a little odd to be reading with my eyeballs, since I listened to the others as audiobook, especially with Norse terms that are spelled a bit differently than they are pronounced. I was pleased to see my favorite crackship finally making an appearance (skip) Riptide's a babe, apparently! And Jack, true to form, is smitten! Pen/Pendant is best sword ship!! Also, having a Norse name misheard as "Bigly" made me choke laughing.
I read another couple of chapters of Fly By Night but it's mostly on hold until I finish the Magnus Chase.
I'm still listening to Airborn by Kenneth Oppel while pool-running, and I think I might be getting close to the Thrilling Climax, though the waterproof mp3 player I have makes it impossible to tell how far I am into the book. It's very much Boys' Own Adventure (with plucky heroine friend) in Alternate Steampunkish World, a little silly, but entertaining.
What I'm reading next:
Might try to get hold of Provenance by Ann Leckie. I just looked at my to-read list and, gah. So much to read! I still haven't read the currently-last Expanse book.
What I'm watching now:
We have two episodes left of Westworld, which for Reasons we will likely watch tonight and tomorrow night. It's a weird and unsettling show, and I hope that the threads will start tying themselves together next season, because there are so many fascinating ideas and I will be disappointed if they don't GO somewhere.
What I'm watching next:
I am going to be on my own for up to 10 days beginning Friday afternoon, so maybe I should watch something that B wouldn't care for. If you've got a rec for something on Amazon Prime or Crunchyroll (or other free method) that I might get fannish about, I'm open to suggestions. Though...
What I'm playing now:
Still Dragon Age: Origins. I'm a bit put out because I apparently started my romance too late to trigger a necessary conversation in order to make it work right. Also I'm always too full up with inventory. I got bored for a while and only picked at the game. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the quest involving escaping prison, so I'm more excited now, and since as I said I'm going to have a lot of free time next week, I will probably play a lot.
What I'm playing next:
If I lose interest in DA and all the DLC quests I have available, I might fire up Witcher 2 and see how that goes. At least I'll finally be able to understand the half of the fandom that's based on characters from it!
Dear Captain Awkward,
Over the years, my smart, funny, fun friend Elizabeth has become ruled by her insecurity, anxiety, and grievances. She’s close with my friends from a couple of overlapping friend groups — I met my boyfriend through her — and somehow, her emotional needs have become the center of our lives. We are constantly trying to manage around Elizabeth’s irrational reactions.
Any time she isn’t invited to anything I’m doing, I’ll hear about it directly and again passive-aggressively. It doesn’t matter the reason. Every low-key hangout becomes a dilemma: do I invite Elizabeth, do I lie about my plans, do I just endure the confrontation. If I invite her when I don’t feel like it, she claims I wasn’t happy to see her. If she’s busy when we make plans, she’ll still say how left out she feels. Any time anyone has big news — they’re engaged, moving, pregnant — telling Elizabeth is a whole thing that has to be strategized around.
It’s not hard to tell this is the result of some deep and miserable insecurity and loneliness. I feel terrible that she feels that way. But she is using her anxieties to control everyone around her, and I’ve realized it’s a fucked-up game that I can’t win.
If she weren’t friends with all my friends, I would cut her out of my life entirely. Given the overlap, though, that would be difficult and dramatic (and maybe end up ruining her relationships with people who are frustrated but not yet totally fed up. She does need friends. I just can’t be one anymore). I am trying instead to see her as a friend-of-friends who I don’t care for. I don’t feel guilty about ways I inadvertently hurt those people. I don’t vent for hours about them to mutual friends. I don’t go to parties we’re both invited to and leave frustrated by all the ways they are disappointing me.
But I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to react the next time she tries to make me feel guilty or make something about her. I don’t know what to say that doesn’t turn into a big, involved, emotional conversation that I do not want. She always wants more from me. I want to give her less. I know what my boundaries are. How do I make them clear to her?
Hello! I think your question is going to resonate with a lot of people.
Story Time: Once upon a time a group of friends and I were trying to decide where to eat dinner. One of the group members had her sister in town, and Sister is apparently a VERY picky eater. Not medical-issues or food-allergies-picky, more like: Most restaurant food is gonna be too weird/too spicy/too ethnic/contain too many foods, like, the “rocks” and the “trees” might touch each other on the plate, so we had to find someplace that would have something she could eat. Great! A challenge! Chicago is a restaurant-rich environment. Surely there would be something.
I tell this story not because picky eaters are bad and shouldn’t be accommodated as much as possible (seriously, do not fill the comments with details about you don’t & can’t eat, I don’t care and it’s not the topic of this column). I tell it because the conversation went on for almost two hours with people raising suggestions and others shooting them down and because during all of this the Sister never said a word. She never said “Ok, Mexican or Thai is cool, I can eat some rice there” or “The diner is fine, I can get a grilled cheese probably and they’ll put everything on the side for me” or “actually Italian doesn’t work for me, sorry” or “Listen, why don’t I make some Kraft dinner here so I’m not starving and then come keep you company later at the bar” or “Hey, I know this is kinda weird, thanks for trying to help find something that will work for me” or “Can we pull up the menu online and see if there’s anything I can eat?” She just sat there quietly making frowny faces and grimaces for almost two hours while 6 people (most of whom she’d just met for the first time) tried to find something she could eat and auditioned options for her while her sister tried to interpret her face and mediate between everyone else.
It was so weird. It was one of the most amazingly dysfunctional things I have ever seen. I say “amazingly” partly because of the way that the visiting Sister had trained her sibling to anticipate and worry about her around eating and to fear her negative reactions to the point that she didn’t even have to say or do anything at this point. The mere prospect of her being sad or upset or unsatisfied was enough to have everyone strategizing around it. It was amazing how quickly we were all trained, by proxy, to react the same way. Also notable was the amount of effort it took to break out of the pattern that was instantly established among us, the amount of energy that it took to be able to say “Listen, I’m starving, we gotta goooooooo.” (We ate Mexican food. There were plain quesadillas. It was fine. Also, this dynamic played out before every single meal of her visit, three meals a day).
I tell this story because your story about your friend is partly about habits and group dynamics and the way they calcify. Elizabeth has trained you all to strategize around her and dread her reactions to things. She has to an extent trained herself to be let down over and over again. It has become a self-perpetuating cycle – the more negatively she reacts, the more she’s left out, which makes her react negatively, which makes people want to be around her less. Stir in some Geek Social Fallacies and it sucks for everyone, Elizabeth most of all. Since you can’t change what Elizabeth will do or how she’ll feel, so can you change the way you react to it so that the relationship works better for you? And can your example help steer the group to help break the pattern?
Relationships where one person is always apologizing and the other person always needs an apology are pretty unbalanced, yes? Relationships where you have to strategize around the possibility of them blowing up at you over pretty minor things are also unbalanced and exhausting. Whatever you’ve shared in the past, that’s where you are now. So, since you do have a lot of social overlap and history with Elizabeth and don’t want to ostracize her from the larger group, figure out your threshold for inviting her to stuff (it sounds like big group hangs are where it’s at) and do that. When you want to invite different people, hang out in smaller groups, make plans without her, or announce good news, do that. When you don’t want to go to something she’s organizing say “No thanks, can’t make it” without giving a reason or apologizing. Then, the hard part: Let her feelings be her feelings and don’t work so hard to fix them or manage them. Be kind and polite without being effusive or engaging deeply and otherwise withdraw to the place that you are comfortable and that feels sustainable for you.
Part of setting and maintaining boundaries with others is internal. It’s making & owning the decision that hey, my line is here, and if someone crosses it, I will withdraw from interacting with them, and if that upsets them, that’s sad, but it doesn’t automatically make the feelings my problem or my fault. Once you decide that you can deal with Elizabeth’s negative feelings without making them your problem, you’ll feel a lot more free and relaxed.
If you end up talking about things with her, say, when Elizabeth inevitably notices your withdrawal and pushes you about it, the script you are looking for might be some version of this:
“I definitely don’t want to upset you or hurt your feelings, but I also don’t want to apologize for something that isn’t actually wrong.
For example, if we’re going to stay in each other’s lives, it has to be okay for me to hang out with other people without consulting you first. It has to be okay for me to do social stuff when you aren’t available. It has to be okay for me to tell you good news about my life and hear ‘congratulations, that’s so great!’ instead of comforting you about the things in your life that you are unhappy about.
I’m not doing those things AT you or in order to hurt you or exclude you, and it’s not okay when you expect me to take care of your feelings when I do them. I find these conversations really exhausting and I don’t want to have them anymore.”
For another example, when Elizabeth starts venting about people who have wronged her after parties, what if you said “Hey, let me stop you there. I don’t actually want to listen to this”? Or what if you redirected her away from venting about people and toward talking to them? “You sound really upset with ______, why don’t you talk to them directly about it?” It sounds like there’s a dynamic here where Elizabeth is expecting you and other friends to expend a lot of energy listening to her grievances with others but won’t take the actual steps that might fix the situation. What if you removed yourself as that outlet and put the work of fixing whatever it is back on her? You can’t control whether she actually talks to the person but you can actually control how much energy you’ll expend on the problem.
- “Listen, every time I hang out with someone who isn’t you, it can’t become A Thing Where We Have To Have A Giant Talk. I really don’t want to.”
- “Where is this coming from?”
- “What is this really about?”
- “What would make you feel better about this?”
- “You’re right, we’re not as close as we used to be. I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around you, and I don’t love it.”
- “You’re right, we’re not as close as we used to be. Sometimes it makes me sad to think about, but also I think it’s okay if friendships evolve over time.“
- “You seem really unhappy in general lately, what’s going on with you?”
- “But friends don’t have to do everything together.”
- “This is really weighing on you, and you seem so unhappy lately, do you think it would help to talk to someone about it?”
- “I feel like this comes up every single time I do something without you. Do you really think friends need to do everything together?”
- “Wait, I just told you good news. Can I get a ‘congratulations’ for a second before we talk about you?”
- “Can you not?”
- “Hmmm interesting“
- “Not cool!“
- “Okay so we’re going with worst case scenarios then?”
- “I can’t talk about this anymore today.”
- “Have you told ____ what you just told me?“
- “What are you going to do about that?“
- “It’s a giant bummer when every party or brunch needs this giant post-mortem with you. Can we not?”
There’s a pretty wide variety there, so, find that script or scripts that lets you engage constructively with her behavior and disengage from a performance of feelings. It might be really valuable to have this out once and for all and really argue with her, like, “Hey! You are stressing me out a lot and making it hard to be friends with you! Knock it off!” It might be better to quietly withdraw. Don’t (for example) ask a lot of questions and dig deeper into what’s going on if you’re ready to be done with the friendship.
I think that given your long friendship it’s worth addressing head on and in depth at least one time. If you’ve never actually said any version of “Hey, this is an unreasonable question, you’re not the boss of my social calendar, knock it off!” before – for example, if you’ve defaulted to mollifying her in the moment (and then resenting the hell out of it later) – remember to start gently and give everyone a couple of chances to reset the relationship. It’s a longstanding problem for you, but it may not read that way for her if this is the first time you’ve pushed back. Does that make sense? Maybe give her a little room to have a less-than-ideal initial reaction and a little bit of time to self-correct things before you tap out forever and ever.
Also, never, ever invoke the wider feelings of the group when you talk to her. Own your own annoyance – “It bothers me,” “I’ve noticed,” “I am annoyed by…” etc. Other people may well have these same issues but appealing to the the group will not lend you authority. It will only justify Elizabeth’s paranoia about being left out and distract from the conversation, like, “Wait, everyone feels this way about me? Who exactly? What exactly did they say?” She already worries that she’s being ostracized and/or bullied, do not feed that worry. Keep it focused on you: “I can’t speak for anyone else, but it bothers me when you hear about me having brunch with other friends and take it as a slight.”
Speaking of “the wider social group” and “things that you can control,” try to stop talking about & complaining about about Elizabeth with the larger friend group as much as you possibly can. There is power and freedom in venting, but sometimes venting also feeds on itself and it becomes a habit unto itself at the expense of action. While you try to break Elizabeth and yourself of bad habits, what if you also tried to redirect the group’s habits, too? When her “b-eating-crackers” behavior comes up in the group (and it will), what if you channeled the complainstorm into “Yep, that is pretty annoying. Have you tried talking to her directly about it?”
- “I know we all try to strategize about how Elizabeth will react to news like this, but what if you just told her ‘I’m engaged!’ and let her feelings be her feelings?“
- “Yeah, she can be like that sometimes. I’ve been trying to set boundaries and just talk to her directly when it comes up instead of spending so much energy talking about her.”
- “I think we have this weird pattern, where Elizabeth overreacts to stuff and then we all overreact to her overreaction. I’m trying to break myself of the habit and just take her as she comes without too much angst about it. I wish nothing but good things for her, and I wish she could be happier but I don’t have the energy to dissect all this every time we see her.”
- “Elizabeth’s gonna Elizabeth, let’s not feed the fire. How is [new topic]?”
People may or may not follow your lead. Set the boundaries anyway, and then enforce them by changing the subject or walking way from Elizabeth-centered conversations. Go talk to anyone else about anything else (the way you wish Elizabeth would do!).
It will take time and probably a few tries to disengage. Be gentle with everyone, especially yourself.
Finally, if you read this and thought “Shit, I’m ‘Elizabeth,'” here’s some stuff you can do to feel better:
A. First and foremost, if anxiety about your friendships and whether people like you is seriously messing with your life, take the problem seriously and investigate solutions. Here’s a website (with forums) devoted to helping people with social anxiety. There are tons and tons of people dealing with this in the world, you are not alone, there are tons of strategies for managing it, everything from therapy & medication to improv classes. Chances are that you don’t have to feel this awful forever.
B. It’s okay to need reassurance from friends sometimes. If your current ways of reaching out aren’t getting the results you want, can you try out a strategy of asking for some specific action the other person can do that might make you feel better? “I miss you, it feels like we never hang out anymore” or “I feel like everyone is too busy to spend time with me” might be true, real, awful, overwhelming feelings. Sadly, expressed out loud or in text form they read like accusations that require a lot of emotional work on the other person to figure out what to do next. What if you translated those feelings into more actionable requests like “I really miss you, friend, can we have lunch soon? Tuesdays are generally good for me.” See also “I’m feeling really sad today, it feels like no one likes me” vs. “I’m really feeling sad today, what’s your favorite song that really cheers you up?” or “I’m feeling really down today, please send compliments & animal .gifs.” I don’t necessarily know what to do with “I’m so lonely and I feel like everyone hates me” but I do know what to do with “Everything sucks today, can you tell me something nice?” or “I could really use a friend to come over and sit with me and color and watch Riverdale* later, do you have a little time?” It takes time and practice to reshape this pattern, so, go slow and be nice to yourself, but try it.
C. If it feels like everyone is always hanging out without you, or like your friend group has calcified into a pattern that doesn’t feel good for you, what can you do to change it up? What can you control?
For example, I get a lot of letters & comments about people who wish they were invited to more stuff. UNDERSTANDABLE. But more often than not, when I scratch the surface and gently ask “Hey, what happens when you plan things for friends to do?” the person says some version of “No + Nobody would come anyway” or “I invited some people once but they didn’t want to come so I stopped” or “Here are 1,000 reasons that this advice is stupid and will never work.” And yeah, okay, maybe so. It sucks, I’m sorry. But you can’t control what other people will do, you can only control what you will do. If the situation is going to change, you’re going to change it, by either changing up how you interact or finding different friends.
Additionally, planning and hosting social events is work. The people in your group who are good at it and confident about it or just defaulted into being in charge of it because no one else wanted to do it also have worries and anxieties: That no one will show up, no one will have a good time. They worry about accidentally hurting people’s feelings by excluding them, or accidentally inviting awkward exes or mortal enemies, or running out of food or ice, or that they’ll make a ton of food and no one will eat it, or that they’ll suggest a bad movie or a board game that is not fun, or that everyone expects them to do the work and nobody ever helps or even thanks them (I get those letters, too). It’s easy, when you are self-conscious, to forget that literally everyone else is also a giant self-conscious weirdo too.
Mostly, and I swear this is true once we get past high school, most people who like hosting events want people to feel welcome and to have a good time. They do not enjoy excluding people or making them feel bad. With this in mind, maybe you can approach the person in your friend group who does most of the scheduling and inviting and say, “Hey, I really appreciate the work you do hosting trivia night every month, what can I do to help?” “Can I plan something for the two of us where the only work you have to do is showing up?”
- RSVP promptly when you’re invited to something.
- If the culture of your friend group is “people bring stuff to parties even when it’s not explicitly a BYOB situation” then be a person who brings baked goods or something to drink. Contribute.
- Set up chairs, offer to wash dishes, and do other tasks that keep your hands busy.
- Say thank you to the organizers afterwards.
- Pay attention to whether other people are having a good time. Is someone new here, do they seem shy? Could they use an introduction to someone else?
- It’s okay to hide out in the bathroom or on the porch or with the host’s pets for a little while if you get overwhelmed. The person who hosts the best parties I know of in Chicago is a bit socially anxious and take breaks from her own parties.
- If you don’t really gel with someone, give them space. Find someone else to talk to at the party. You don’t have to have the same level of intimacy with everyone in a social group.
- Invite people to do smaller stuff, one-on-one. Stop thinking of it as The Whole Group vs. You and think of it as a bunch of people you mostly like and some you like more than others.
- Try to approach events you’re invited to with the mindset of “People want to be kind and want me to have a good time here.”
- When you’re not invited to something, try (I know, but try) to cultivate the mindset of “Hey, not everyone has to hang out together all the time. I’ll probably catch them another time.“
D. All that said, it’s 100% okay for you, Relatively Lonely Person, to back off from friendships that feel like too much work. If people make you feel like you have to chase them all the time, if people make you feel insecure, if people judge you when you need a little reassurance or cheering up, if people never make you a priority, it’s okay to disengage. You don’t have to make all the effort or have to subsist on crumbs or leftovers to deserve friends.
To be totally honest, I am a recovering ‘Elizabeth.’ I spent my teens and 20s as a needy and socially confused bull in ye olde emotional china shoppe. I had undiagnosed depression and anxiety. I over-relied on friends to process endless streams of complaints and obsessions. I got rejected a lot socially and romantically and received a lot of negative and painful feedback from groups I wanted to be part of. I *often* experienced that moment of saying something and feeling a group of people go kind of silent and limp around my awkwardness, exchanging awkward eye messages with each other, and then changing the subject (“So…anyway…“) while my conversational turd sat there, unacknowledged.
Things that helped: Therapy. Getting older. Reality checks and boundary-setting from friends who were like “I love you but you are too intense sometimes, please knock this off so I can keep liking you” or “Look I know you’re sad but I am done talking about this” or “Do you realize you start every phone call by immediately just talking about yourself and how sad you are and don’t even ask me how I’m doing?” Losing friendships where I didn’t listen to these boundaries and learning from those mistakes. Painful self-awareness and trying to do better. Making the effort to reframe situations where I felt rejected and not automatically default to the explanations that most dovetailed with my poor self-image. Realizing that the “So…anyway…” moments were an attempt to let me save face, and that it’s okay for people to have limits about how much complaining they can absorb. Learning to read the room better and to ask questions before launching in.
It took a long time and it was hard and I still fuck up sometimes. In some cases I let go of friendships that didn’t work anymore and sought less rocky ground. In others I changed my behavior. In all cases trying was better than not trying. In all cases the only person who could really change the dynamic was me.
I hope things get better all around for you and Elizabeth(s). You can’t fix her feelings, so, take care of yourself and be as gentle as you can.
*I might be a little obsessed with this show right now. If you’re obsessed too, my Twitter is @CAwkward
My only child is 16 years old. He was curious about sex from a very young age and very open with me, so his interest in sexual matters gave me ample opportunity to talk with him about safety and consent. He went through a cross-dressing phase when he was small—mostly wanting to wear nail polish and try on mascara—and I felt like I navigated those waters pretty well, but his father made attempts to squelch those impulses. (He and I are divorced. He has since remarried and is less involved.) That's the background. I've always accepted that he is who he is and done my best to help guide and educate him. Then last year, I caught him trying to shoplift a pair of panties. I'm not the sort of mom who freaks out, but I made him put them back and talked to him about his actions. When I asked him why he stole them, he refused to tell me. I asked: "Did you want them to masturbate with? Did you want to wear them?" He said he wanted to try them on. I told him that if he wanted to explore, he needed to do that with a legal purchase and in the privacy of his own room. Today, I found a girl's bra in the laundry. He says he doesn't know whose it is or how it got there, but this isn't my first rodeo. What on earth do I do? If I send him to a therapist and this is about being trans or cross-dressing tendencies, I'm afraid that will shame him. However, this is now something of a criminal/ethical concern, and I want to nip that in the bud. He is in every way a wonderful human: kind, smart, funny, athletic, no drugs. Is this just the same kid who has always been curious about sex? Or are these warning signs of some sort of sexual deviance? Please help.
Mom In Sleepy South Carolina Lovingly Educates Offspring
Take a deep breath, MISSCLEO, or take two—take however many you need until you're back in touch with your inner mom, the one who doesn't freak out.
Your son may be a cross-dresser or he may be trans or he may find bras and panties titillating because women wear them and he wants to sleep with women (not be one). (Lots of gay boys are titillated by jockstraps—but a closeted gay boy can collect 'em all without freaking out his mom.) We can't know whether your son is a cross-dresser, trans, or merely titillated, MISSCLEO, but he's clearly exploring and wants to do so privately. So while he could go to his mom and ask for a pair of panties and let her know exactly how he intends to use them, he doesn't want to ask his mom for a pair of panties or share his uses for them with his mom. He knows you've always accepted him for who he is (but a reminder never hurts), so if this is about his gender identity, well, you'll have to trust that he'll share that with you when he's ready. But if this is about a kink, he may never share that info with you, because why on earth would he? Kinks are for sharing with lovers, not mothers.
Give your son some space, including the space to make his own mistakes. As teenage misbehavior goes, swiping a single pair of panties isn't exactly a crime spree. If you suspect he snuck into the girls' locker room and made off with a bra (there has to be an easier way for a guy to get his hands on a bra!), you'll want to address that with him—not the "Why do you want a bra?" part, but the risk of getting caught, suspended, expelled, or worse. There are too many prosecutors out there looking for excuses to slap the "sex offender" label on teenagers—especially in the Bible Belt.
My hunch is you don't have a sex offender on your hands or a kid drifting into organized crime. You have a slightly pervy teenage boy who's curious about sex and who may, like millions of other men, have a thing for women's undergarments. You should emphasize the Not Okay–ness of shoplifting panties from stores or stealing bras from classmates (or the siblings of friends or Laundromats or thrift stores) and the possible consequences should he get caught—theft charges, suspension/expulsion, losing friends, coming into the sights of a sex-negative prosecutor. (Seriously: A man like Harvey Weinstein gets away with assaulting women for decades, but prosecutors across the country are throwing the book at teenagers who got caught sharing pics they took of themselves with their BFs/GFs/NBFs.) But otherwise, MISSCLEO, I'm going to advise you to back the fuck off. Your son knows you love him, he knows he can talk to you about anything, and he'll confide in you if and when he's ready—if, again, this is something he needs to discuss with you at all.
My father passed away suddenly. I had a very idyllic childhood and was close to my father and my mother (who is also deceased). Upon sorting through my father's stuff after his death, I stumbled upon his erotica collection. If it were just a stack of Playboys, I would have thought nothing of it—that's just men being men. However, his collection contained material that was quite disturbing to me, including photos depicting violent sexual acts and fictional erotica books and magazines with themes of incest. Additionally, there were letters from people with whom he was obviously having extramarital affairs, including during the time that I was a child and believed that we were a "normal" family. Since discovering this, it has been hard for me to come to terms with it and think of my father in the way that I used to. I can barely stand to look at a photograph of him. I consider myself to be a sex-positive person, and I realize that even parents are entitled to be kinky, but I simply can't get over this. Any suggestions for how to deal with what I'm feeling and how to try to get past it?
Parent's Arousal Really Ended Nice Thoughts
Sex-positive, huh? Could've fooled me.
Your dad was a kinky motherfucker—you know that now—and if you've been reading Savage Love for a while, you'll know that lots of people are kinky and, distressingly, lots of people out there "enjoy" incest porn. "Of the top hundred searches by men on Pornhub," Seth Stephens-Davidowitz writes in his book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, "sixteen are looking for incest-themed videos." And it's not just men: "Nine of the top hundred searches on Pornhub by women are for incest-themed videos." That's cold comfort, I realize, and it doesn't make it any less squicky, but your dad's tastes weren't as freakish as you thought and/or hoped.
As for his affairs, your happy childhood, and your suddenly conflicted feelings...
Your mother isn't with us, PARENT, so you can't ask her what her arrangement was with your father. But it's unlikely you would have had such an idyllic childhood if your parents' marriage was contentious and your mom was miserable about your dad's cheating and his kinks. It seems likely that your mom didn't have a problem with your dad's sexual interests or she tolerated them or—and I hope you're sitting down—she was an active and happy participant. (Kinky women weren't invented in a lab in San Francisco in 2008.) If your mom didn't have a problem with your dad's kinks (which she had to have known about) or his affairs (which she might not have known about), I don't see why they should be a problem for you.
On the Lovecast, Dan chats with the creator of a naughty, naughty game: savagelovecast.com.
Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Plot: Baron Frankenstein is a TERRIBLE PERSON. That’s it. That’s the movie.
The Good: This might be my favorite Hammer movie ever. Peter Cushing is wonderful as a hero, but as a villain? SUBLIME. His Victor Frankenstein is an obsessive, immoral ASSHOLE. He’s an asshole to his boyfriend Paul (no way they weren’t fucking, don’t try to convince me that they were just friends), an asshole to his fake French maid (the way he LAUGHS at her is chilling), an asshole to his cousin…like, making a monster out of corpses is really the least of his issues. I think he might be nicest to the monster and he’s not even that nice to the monster. I also love how there’s no real hero here - Paul tries, but he also helped Victor do his freaky experiments in the first place, and keeps going back to give him a hand despite knowing better. I also love the framing device the film employs, which I know some people think is unnecessary, but it totally works.
The Bad: I don’t love the monster make-up the way I love the Universal make-up, but I can appreciate it. I do enjoy the way the skin looks loose and rotten, like it’s going to slide off the bones. Poor Christopher Lee is given NOTHING to do, but it’s not his story, he’s just a pawn.
The Scary: Peter Cushing is the scariest thing in this movie, his determined, but compassionless eyes, his excited fervor over his work, he’s nuts, but a dangerous kind of nuts where he can seem totally rational when he’s speaking to you, then when you walk away you realize he’s out of his gourd. ‘LOOK OUT PROFESSOR LOOK OUT!’ and that little smirk…just chilling.
Five out of five pumpkins, I like this movie just as much as the original.
Village of the Damned (1960)
Plot: The women of an English village are impregnated by a mysterious force and give birth to a dozen Aryan looking kids who might be an autism metaphor - four of those kids are total assholes and ruin everything for the rest of them,
The Good: This was a new one for me! I knew the plot, but hadn’t actually watched the whole movie, I think I saw it on a best-of horror list once and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s more sci-fi than horror, but the script was tight and George Sanders REALLY sells it, he’s the best part of the movie. The worst part was the way the kids were handled and I’ll get to that in a minute.
The Bad: Ooh, the kids. So, they dubbed the main kid (David’s) voice pretty obviously and their hair is awful. Not scary, just awful. I also love how it’s apparently a dozen little alien babies, but only four of them actually go around causing mayhem. I like to believe that the rest of them are playing checkers and eating candy, just enjoying their hive mind (one of them goes to the movies, they only have to save their allowance to buy one ticket and they all enjoy it). But David had his awful friends have to kill people and then everyone’s after them. There’s also the uncomfortable super-smart, super-dangerous kids that veers a little into looking like a negative metaphor for autism or another neurological condition. Clearly they’re alien babies, but still - I really do appreciate the fact that Sanders (even though he kind of looks at the kids like they’re tools) isn’t totally freaked out or dismissive of them. Had David and his little douche squad not gone around being evil, I’m sure they could have been pillars of the community.
The Scary: Creepy children don’t frighten me, but I’m sure they give a lot of other people the shivers. The eye effects were done well, but really, the scenes before the kids are born, where everyone’s trying to figure out what happened and are worried about the possibilities are the scariest for me - once the kids are actually around, it’s sort of a let-down.
Three out of five pumpkins, a good little sci-fi scare.
Horror of Dracula (1958)
Plot: The greatest screen Van Helsing faces off against the second-greatest screen Dracula while Jonathan Harker is as useless as ever.
The Good: EVERYTHING IS SO GOOD! I love this movie, I love the sets, the costumes, the actors, it’s all so awesome. For me, the most wonderful part is Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing. He’s so smart and handsome and charming and fiesty and handsome. Did I mention handsome? But yeah, he’s great! I feel like a lot of Van Helsings spend a lot of time just sitting around trying to convince people there are vampires, but Peter Cushing just gets down to it - staking his former friend, dragging Arthur off to stab vampire!Lucy - and can we talk about that girl? Because I have never seen anyone so excited to become a vampire bride, flinging open the windows, getting set in the bed, she was ready to get it on! But yeah, the script is tight, the performances are stellar - not Christopher Lee least of all, with his red eyes and bloody teeth, I like the juxaposition of sophisticate/animal his count has going on, it’s clever and well-played.
The Bad: Um…Jonathan Harker is useless, but he always is. I don’t mind the changes made to the plot, the novel has a million characters, you need to cut it down for film.
The Scary: Dracula himself is a force of nature, a real threat because with other Draculas, you get the sense that they’re a man, essentially, whose become a monster. With this Dracula, he’s a monster who has to pretend at being a man. There’s no battle of wits, he’s coming for your blood and that’s IT. The final battle is great and the effects at the end are some of my favorite from any vampire movie ever.
Five out of five pumpkins!
The Mummy (1959)
Plot: Egyptologists break into a tomb, raid it, and piss off the local pagans - unfortunately, the most attractive and interesting Egyptologist of them all has nothing to do except explain things.
The Good: This is such a miss for me in terms of the Hammer catalog of films - it PAINS me to say because I love the Universal film SO MUCH. It’s probably because I haven’t seen the sequels that I’m lukewarm on this one. Peter Cushing is a joy, as ever, but the plot is hollow, it’s a lot of exposition (if these movies have one weakness it’s too much time is spent sitting around talking), and I think the color really hurts the film. Hammer was famous for interjecting blood, guts, and gore into their movies, but the Mummy isn’t a character who benefits from color, it makes things just look cheap and the suspense is dropped to nil because you can see EVERYTHING. The only other plus is a heroine who’s responsible for saving herself.
The Bad: I find this movie really boring, not suspenseful, and Peter Cushing doesn’t have enough to do where he can really carry the movie. It’s not very long, but it seems to go on FOREVER, it took me three viewings to get through because I just wanted to go to bed.
The Spooky: That’s what lets this movie down, it’s just not scary. The mummy character lumbers around, the flashback scenes are good, but too bright and the scene between the Egyptian priest and Peter Cushing is well-written, but not scary. It’s a horror movie with no horror.
Two out of five pumpkins, not recommended.
It's challenge time!
Comment with Just One Thing you've accomplished in the last 24 hours or so. It doesn't have to be a hard thing, or even a thing that you think is particularly awesome. Just a thing that you did.
Feel free to share more than one thing if you're feeling particularly accomplished!
Extra credit: find someone in the comments and give them props for what they achieved!
Nothing is too big, too small, too strange or too cryptic. And in case you'd rather do this in private, anonymous comments are screened. I will only unscreen if you ask me to.
I can’t stand people who say stuff along the lines of “lol history professors have the most boring job in the world”
like. buddy. have you ever met a history professor??? i’ve witnessed roughly five (5) separate debates that ended in full-on, hoarse-voiced shouting matches and at least one (1) fistfight
All historians are just angry, salty, bitter people who hate people long dead and fight about headcanons.
Historians are condemned to a life of horrors because they look at what people do and are like ‘oh god oh my goood gOd wHY sToP the last time someone did that it ended in 275 years of war and two million and a half dead people and also Poland stopped existing for a while jesus fucking christ dooon’t do thaaat’
Basically being a historian means wanting to bang your head against the nearest wall and yelling at the news on tv 70% of the time and staring into an imaginary camera like you’re in The Office for the other 30% because the thing went exactly like you had foreseen because it had already happened in 1756 but no one listened to you
The best description of my favorite history teacher.
If anyone is wondering why I am the way I am, just know that I love history and kEEP WATCHING DIPWADS REPEAT IT
Nothing, because I'm still not getting any sleep for more than two to four hours at a time, which gives me about an hour of usable consciousness each time I wake up, after which I cannot focus on anything more strenuous than, like, YouTube videos about how crayons are made, until I get another couple hours. Rinse. Repeat. I have a giant list of fannish things to do starting with "answer these emails from two weeks ago" and I haven't done any of it. I haven't worked on my Big Bang in two weeks. Argh.
What I'm Reading Now
( Champions #13, Doctor Strange #26, Invincible Iron Man #593, Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #5, X-Men Gold #14 )
What I'm Reading Next
See above, re: argh.
I'd like to bring a guest gift, as a way of saying thank you, but I'm finding myself paralyzed. (Also short on time, but that's a separate issue.) The traditional gift is food, right? Something homemade, that carries the signification of "I put work into this" as well as the general good feeling associated with sharing food. Or wine, which lacks the homemade aspect but adds extra celebratoriness to the good feeling aspect.
But, knowing nothing about the person I might be staying with, I'm finding myself blocked with worry about what might be appropriate. Alcohol is problematic enough for enough people that I'd rather not bring it -- plus I should bring something I'd want to consume myself, in case they invite me to share, and I'd rather not drink while I'm there. But food is difficult too. Sweets/desserts are the usual gift, for the special-treat feeling, and I'd rather not eat sweets either, really, but I can cope. But what if they're gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, sugar-free, kosher, halal, allergic, diabetic? Is there a universally suitable food gift? Is it okay if I bring something they can't eat? What if I accidentally hit on something to which they're so allergic that just having it in the house is a problem? Aaaaaaaa.
I definitely don't feel that a gift is required, and given time restrictions, I may end up bringing nothing anyway. But I'd like to if I can -- if I can think of something!
Uh, any suggestions?
This isn't it.
Thanks to Ruth H. for the initial discomfort.
Note from john: For those you you who may not know, usually "DOA" stands for "Dead On Arrival." Less common meanings are "Dead Or Alive", "Date Of Arrest" and the ever-popular, "Darkener Of Apricot."
for those of you with a little bit of disposable income who hate people, the venerated Starbucks pumpkin spice latte comes in one of their 1.5 liter containers! It’s not EXACTLY the same, but it works.