Carolyn Hax: A tie too deep to cut; a troublesome carpooler

October 31, 2012

Dear Carolyn:

There is a woman in my life with whom I do not wish to interact on a regular basis. She’s incredibly selfish and cares only for her own happiness. She can’t be trusted with confidences; she blabs everything to anyone who will listen, even when she’s asked to keep something to herself. When I bothered to call her, she either didn’t answer or was too busy to talk to me. I quit calling. Yet, when she calls me, she expects me to drop whatever I’m doing to chat. If I ignore her calls, she continues to call until I answer.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I find these conversations tiresome and would rather avoid them.

Does it change your answer to know that she’s my mother? If this were anyone else, I would have cut off contact years ago.

Anonymous


Okay then — why does it change your answer?

You’ve chosen not to cut her off despite solid reasons and incentives to do so. That tells me you regard her, or maybe just motherhood itself, as worthy of an exception.

There’s nothing wrong with that — and if it does feel wrong, then maybe what you need isn’t to cut the tie once and for all, as you seem tempted yet reluctant to do, but instead to gain a full understanding of your own reasons for making this exception.

Is it because she brought good things to your life, amid the bad? Is it because you recognize that she did provide for you — changed your diapers, fed you, drove you where you needed to go — even if her motives centered on her? Is it because you love her, even while you dislike her? Is it because part of you is still waiting for her to put you first? Is it because you just don’t want to be the person who no longer speaks to his/her own mom?

There’s a reason in there somewhere. Figure it out, then decide whether it satisfies you as a reason to keep doing this maddening dance. I expect it’ll be easier to choose how much contact you have — and what you expect of it — from there.

Dear Carolyn:

How do you tell someone s/he is not fitting into a long-standing carpool group?

We’re all unhappy with “Pat,” each for different reasons, one of which is chronic lateness, which makes everyone late. This happens at least two or three times every week, and no explanation or apology is ever offered. Rude!

Pat is constantly texting or having personal phone conversations when riding as a passenger, which annoys some. And s/he constantly eats noisy, fragrant and sometimes messy foods, which annoys others.

The worst, though, is Pat’s feeling that s/he is expected to drive more often than is fair (which is not true; we do a round-robin sort of thing so no one drives more often than anyone else).

We all work for the same company, so we want to keep it amicable. But how to tell Pat nicely?

Carpool Blues

No, the worst is that Pat makes you all late. Fussing about the ways Pat offends each of you personally wipes out “nicely,” where facts obviate it: Tell Pat s/he’s late too often to remain in the carpool. Never make an issue personal that doesn’t have to be.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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