Carolyn Hax: Mom pushes buttons on Facebook; he wonders about his girlfriend’s ex

Carolyn Hax
Columnist August 24, 2012

Dear Carolyn:

My daughter kept posting on Facebook stuff about her exercise/marathon program: shoes with toes, boxing stuff, running stuff, volleyball . . . she is a professional, single woman with two kids under 10.

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

After a while, I laughed to myself and posted: “Changed my mind, maybe you should get married.”

She defriended me.

Whaddayathink? In retrospect, she probably defriended me a long time ago . . . for some strange reason, she resents me. So haven’t been in touch with her in months.


A.

I think that when a mother mocks her adult daughter’s interests publicly — and invokes what is traditionally one of the sorest possible subjects for extra, public laughs — and then is shocked, shocked! when it offends, the mother sounds awfully disingenuous. And, frankly, kind of mean.

Unless the daughter tends to find such ribbing funny. But she doesn’t, does she?

You seem to know the route for getting under your daughter’s skin. It also seems as if your daughter marks that route clearly with slightly-too-loud (and therefore slightly defensive-sounding) announcements of her fitness accomplishments.

Chicken? Egg?

If she had written, then I’d ask whether she doth protest too much. But since you’re the one who wrote, I’ll ask you: Why not just say, “Yay!” then leave her be? Whence your impulse to tweak her? That’s your “strange reason” right there.

Dear Carolyn:

After dating my girlfriend exclusively for 14 months, is it okay for me to ask the history between her and a male friend of hers? It is pretty obvious he is interested in her. He attends a class she leads that I often attend as well, and he and I are friendly. I just want to know if he is a former boyfriend, as one of her friends referred to him, but don’t want to come off as the guy who controls her or is psycho-jealous. I think it’s a fair question. I’m also curious if she still has contact with her ex, who lives across the country.

D.

Of course it’s okay to ask about both, as long as you don’t demand intimate details or an undying loyalty oath.

But it would have been more okay if you had asked her back when these questions first bubbled up. The mechanics of “psycho-jealous” aren’t just in the curiosity, but instead in the timing and tone of the questions, as well as your investment in one outcome or another.

When they’re part of the get-to-know-you process, such questions are a good way to learn about someone: “That guy in your class, is he an ex of yours, old friend, acquaintance from class . . . ?” Natural curiosity in its natural place.

When the questions come out 14 months into your relationship, on the other hand, and it sounds as if you’re trying to phrase them just so, they suggest you have issues with these men and/or your girlfriend’s ongoing contact with them.

Since you missed your opportunity to ask back when these men first entered the conversation, bring up the subject now by acknowledging that: “I should have asked this months ago, because I’ve been curious — [is Class Guy an ex]/[are you still in touch with Mr. Ex]?”

Straight questions and straight answers are rarely something to fear; dodging, from either side, is when alarms go into effect.

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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