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Hosted by Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 29, 2003; 12:00 PM

Carolyn takes your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

Appearing every Wednesday and Friday in The Washington Post Style section and in Sunday Source, Tell Me About It ? offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there -- really recently. Carolyn Hax is a 30-something repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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The Blahs: Please tell me 22 will seem better in retrospect.

Carolyn Hax: Even better, 32 will seem great by comparison.

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Carolyn Hax: And, since you didn't ask, the best cure for the blahs is to try something you've always wanted to try but have never had the guts to. A legal something of course.

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Anytown, USA: Why am I shocked the Madonna made out with Britney last night? Does this mean I'm getting old?

Carolyn Hax: Yes.

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Rockville, Md.: Reading over the recent ring discussion, I just have to report what my fiance said when I asked about a ring, "If you get an engagement ring, I get an engagement big screen TV."

As you might imagine, he doesn't care much about "traditions", especially those involving money.

Carolyn Hax: And your family and his (or you and he) split the wedding costs 50-50. If he's going to be a tradition-shucker, he can't be selectively so.

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Alexandria, Va.: How do you know when someone's trying to ditch you as a friend? I think I am a pretty fun, exciting person, not dull or draining or anything. I've been friends with a certain woman for years now -- very close. Lately she doesn't call as much. She says she's just been very busy with a demanding job and a new boyfriend. But still, she simply doesn't call me back, or when she does, doesn't have a ton of time to talk. I'm just sort of amazed since we have been friends for so long. Am I being a loser and not taking the hint? How do you know when it is time to back off?

Carolyn Hax: When you've asked her whether she's really busy or you're just bad at taking hints, and she insists she's just really busy.

That doesn't mean she is really busy, necessarily, but it does say that it's the best answer you're going to get. From there, all you can do is keep trying when you feel like seeing her, and finding other friends as you can, and not taking her remoteness personally unless you're instructed otherwise.

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Carolyn Hax: Funny range of responses to today's column, especially since they reflect pretty well the responses from my editors. I'll post a few for your amusement.

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Google Central: Your column is great today! My friends and I Google everyone we date. It just makes sense to see if someone is telling the truth. I knew a girl who dated a guy online, didn't feel it was proper to Google him, ended up moving to his home state and marrying him -- THEN she found out he has served time and is not allowed to leave the state. Nothing against anyone who tries to put a life back together after prison, of course, but she was floored that his past meant they couldn't take weekend trips or visit her family on short notice. That is worst-case scenario, but if it is free information you might as well take a peek. And I say this knowing that when someone Googles me, they find a lot of things I'd rather share in a personal conversation so I am not just being Internet smug. Oh, and I think it is wrong in the case of job interviewers Googling prospective employees. What if they run across an article about someone's fight with Cancer and that taints their judgment? Just my two cents plus inflation.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks--more coming.

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Googling: Carolyn:

Just read today's column. Not sure I agree with your answer. They appear to have agreed that exchange of last names was verboten. He even explicitly declined to tell her what movies he'd directed in the past... and yet she went behind his back and looked for (and found) this information anyway. Basically, this means the relationship, should it progress, will start on a bad foot: lack of trust. No? They mutually agreed upon a specific set of boundaries for the relationship, and she deliberately exceeded them.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for weighing in.

One more:

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Chicago, Ill.: The guy who wrote the letter in your column today was an a--hat. Get over yourself, buddy.

Carolyn Hax: Snort.

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Philly: Carolyn!; Is it lame to go to a movie by yourself? On Friday night?

Carolyn Hax: It's lame not to go to a movie just because it's Friday night and you're by yourself.

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Re: 22 v. 32: Yeah, but at 22, I couldn't have cared less that I was single. At 32, the same can't really be said. But because it's a Friday before a long weekend and I'm leaving work early to buy some shoes, overall, life is much better.

Carolyn Hax: Imagine if you were 32 and married to the wrong person. There is always something to celebrate. Especially if you are wearing new shoes.

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Chicago, Ill.: Okay,

We've been together for six years and are very happy except she wants to be married, I don't. The subject pops up more and more lately and we can't seem to find a mutually agreeable compromise. Any thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: I'm curious. Why don't you want to be married?

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Madonna and Britney what??: Liz, do you have a link to the story?

washingtonpost.com: Here's the story from MTV "news": Madonna Smooches Britney. But I feel sorry for poor Christina... she got the liplock, too, yet no one seems to care.

Carolyn Hax: Maybe because she has an actual voice, and so isn't famous for stunts.

I, meanwhile, regret having given this our attention, since that was its only point, which is the reason I wasn't shocked.

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Washington, D.C.: Re today's column: what if it's the woman being Googled? I have an unusual last name. I'm very easy to find. Last thing I need is somebody whom I met online, and whom I chose not to pursue, waiting outside my office building, butcher knife in hand.

Carolyn Hax: That would certainly be terrible, but the line-crossing to complain about would be the butcher knife, not the Googling. What's public is public, and there's just nothing immoral or even unfair about typing a name into a search engine.

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Washington, D.C.: If I know the full name of this guy I'm just getting know romantically, and googled his name and have found his e-mail address -- would it be OK to e-mail him? When I asked him for his e-mail address once when we were out he said to not worry about it, cause he would definitely call me. We talk quite a bit... but it seems I do all the calling, and if he calls it's usually to return a message. Don't worry, I'm not calling obsessively, though. Just once every few days. Your advice on this scenario would be greatly appreciated.

Carolyn Hax: Without even getting into the propriety of using an e-mail address that he refused to give you, I am going to urge you, terryclothheadbandedly, not to do it simply because you are calling him once every few days and he is not calling you. Back off. The two most important things you can get to know about someone romantically are 1. if you feel romantically toward him, and 2. if he feels the same about you. If you're the only one talking, you'll never hear where he stands on item 2.

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Re: google: Carolyn,

I hope you will remind people that just because they find something on the Internet, especially information about someone they know or might start dating, that doesn't mean it's true.

Carolyn Hax: Right, thanks. So reminded.

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washingtonpost.com: Public Service Announcement: Sending in the same question twice, three times -- or say, 10 times -- does not give it any better chance of being answered. -- Liz

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Google: If you google me (and my name is spelled unusually), it turns out I right porn novels in Australia. People must be REALLY disappointed when the meet me. Heck -- I want to meet me!

Carolyn Hax: Funnier way to say same. Thanks!

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It's Me!: For Alexandria, Va.: Please, take the hint. Leave me alone. Don't social cues count for anything anymore? Sorry.

Carolyn Hax: No, be sorry if you're dodging a direct question like, "Is it something I said?" A long friendship deserves a more mensch-like end than a smattering of dismissive "social cues."

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RE: Googled Movie: Geez, I'd be flattered that someone took the time to look up (and actually watch) whatever B-movie this guy was responsible for.

In online dating terms, that like showing up with a 24 pack of long stems and those cute little chocolates.

Carolyn Hax: Or little chocolate long stems and a 24-pack.

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Re: Going to the movies alone.: I used to feel the way you did about going to the movies alone. I felt silly. When I went I was uncomfortable about what everyone thought. Sometimes I would even watch the door like my companion was getting popcorn and I was ready to wave them to the seat when they came in.

Now I love going to the movies alone. You never have to worry about if the person you are with is enjoying themselves. You can see movies as soon as you want not when someone is free. And no one mocks you for sobbing during the emotional scenes.

Some movies I still like to watch with other people but most of the time I would rather be alone.

Carolyn Hax: And people who go alone don't jabber with their friends through the whole movie, which means I love people who go to the movies alone.

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WTF?: Who breaks up with a friend on a live chat?
I think someone else needs to learn about "social cues"

Carolyn Hax: I thought it was WTS.

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Time off!;: Dear Carolyn,

I love my job, it's really interesting, but no matter how good the week has been & how much I've accomplished, when I look back on my week, the only parts that remain meaningful are the parts with friends. Does this mean I'm due for a job change or just some new shoes?

I'm only somewhat kidding, I'm getting more envious of friends who are able to drop their current jobs and move around easily, but at the same time - I like having a steady paycheck, working in a field I enjoy, and being able to afford said new shoes.

Carolyn Hax: I get all kinds of meaningful moments out of my job, and if I were independently wealthy, I can't say for sure I wouldn't drop it like a bag of dirt. The world is just too interesting a place for any routine or obligation to remain appealing on intrigue alone. The reason we don't all hop from job to job, country to country, love to love is that security has its good points, too. So, you're able to finance meaningful friendships and meaningful retail with a job that you enjoy. Yay for you. Don't think so much.

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Washington, D.C.: So Liz, will you marry me?

washingtonpost.com: Hold on a sec while I google ya...

Carolyn Hax: Did you know Liz invented the spork?

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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn- I am recently (about five months) out of a very unhealthy long-term relationship (6+ years). I did the breaking up, if that matters. Our relationship had descended into a trustless hell, and it needed to end. Here's the problem: I recently met a terrific guy who seems to be everything the ex is not... sincere, truly "in like" with me, willing to go out of his way for me, etc. I am just having such problems believing that he really could like me "like that" without all of the associated "but..." clauses. I can't stop thinking that maybe he's just bored, passing the time with me until someone better comes along. I know that since I haven't known him for that long, we might not work out, but I don't want to kill it with my insecurity before I give it the chance. I am 32, if that makes a difference. Please help me figure out how to gain back some of my confidence! Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: It's kinda up to you, but I'll try.

I can't think of an uncorny way to say it on the fly, so here flyeth the corn: Your trust meter is external and you need to get an internal one. You were with a jerk, and he did unpleasant things and you put up with it, so now you don't trust men or yourself, and so someone else ambled along and you stuck the meter on him and you like what it says by comparison, but you're not sure ...

Agh. Stop. You're casting about for someone or something to make you feel okay when that has to be a feeling you get on your own. Be alone for a while. Treat yourself with respect. See how that feels. Find a way to get happy without leaning on someone else. See how that feels, too. -Then- decide whether someone is trustworthy or not based on how s/he makes you feel compared with your decent, happy alone state. When you know what feeling good feels like, you can spot jerks (ie, people who make you feel bad about yourself) from 50 paces.

As for what to do with the guy--is he's true blue, he'll accept your decision to hang back and be just-friends while you mend yourself for a while.

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GW: Hi Carolyn,
One of my friends (we're both 22) happens to really enjoy being single and proclaims her "freedom" by constantly having one-night stands. She says she's on the pill and she uses condoms, so as long as she stays "safe" she doesn't think it's harmful. I say, obviously there's some deep-rooted psychological stuff going on that she needs to address. How do I bring this up with her delicately and respectfully? Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Before you get to the psychological stuff, please tell her there's no such thing as "safe," since condoms are better than nothing but don't prevent HPV or herpes transmission and they also sometimes break.

As for the psychological stuff, I don't think promiscuity stands alone when someone has issues goin' on. There's usually something else (or a bunch of somethings)--mood swings, debt, substance abuse, flakiness with commitments, job problems, lying, hiding stuff, to name just a few. And since promiscuity is so judgmentally loaded and almost impossible to raise without defensiveness, I think you'd be better off, if you really believe this friend is in some sort of trouble, gathering some other evidence of it and relying on that to approach her.

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Nowhere: I am thinking of leaving my fiance. We've been engaged six months (and I have done ZERO wedding planning, no date set), together for four years, lived together two. He is controlling, to the point of emotional abuse at times. My sister and best friend want me out, which is stressful in itself because now I feel that I have no one to talk to and I feel like they think I am incredibly stupid. I DO love him, which no one seems to care about, and would be willing to stay to work on this if he were willing to go to counseling (but he's not -- he thinks it is not effective). Anyway, he knows that I am on the brink and, predictably I suppose, has been great lately, which gives me that thin glimmer of hope. I just don't think it will last. I know what I need to do (leave), but it is just so heartbreaking, sad, that I don't want to. Any ideas to help? I feel completely outside myself.

Carolyn Hax: You go to counseling alone. And, give your sister and best friend a chance. Just because they think you should leave your fiance doesn't mean they think you're stupid. In fact, I powerfully suspect they're just worried about you--beside themselves even--and all you'd have to say to them is that you're afraid to lean on them because you'll feel stupid, and you'll get every assurance you need that you can lean on them without fear. They want you out because they care about you, and their caring about you is exactly why they're good people for you to talk to.

As for your loving him, it does matter and I'm sure your friends and family do care, but your being treated well matters more and they rightly care about that more. You need to put that first in line as well.

As for your glimmer of hope, please DO NOT be blinded by it. It is the essence of a controlling person to become nice when he fears that you're leaving. It will end the minute he feels sure you're back under his control. Count on that, get help, get out.

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Re: Promiscuous friend: Dude, she LIKES being single. Like everyone, she LIKES sex. Why do you have to assume she's got issues? Geez, mind your own business.

Carolyn Hax: The other way of saying it. Thanks. Though damn it's risky these days, and it's not like it wasn't before.

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The Big Apple: Carolyn,

I've always had a problem telling the difference between when a girl is being friendly, and when a girl is being flirty. Consequently I'm constantly holding back from making a move because of too many "hey, i'm sorry you misunderstood my feelings, but" conversations with the fairer sex. Any advice? Please help, I'm feeling stuck in romantic neutral. Thanks

Carolyn Hax: It might not be the signal reading but the moves you're getting wrong. How strong a move are you making?

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Rockville, Md.: Carolyn,

do you know where a person can go to get help to stop abusing alcohol that isn't AA or some other higher power 12 step program?

I'm not asking for a friend, I'm asking for me.

Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: Secular Organizations for Sobriety

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, L.

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Land of lightbulbs: I just realized something last week that floored me and I can't get back up. I realized that I fell in love with my husband because he paid so much attention to me which made me feel really special and wonderful and pretty. Now that that attention is waning, I find that I don't like him very much. He's bossy, arrogant, fat, lazy, controlling. I wonder if this is pretty common in the game of mating since it seems guys always start strong and peter out. Just like their hair.

Carolyn Hax: Hey. That last shot was fair only if your boobs aren't heading floorward.

The rest of it, though, makes some sense, but I think more generally. It's really common for decisions made in the heat of something to look bad when things start to cool. So, either be friends first or wait past the strangely consistent twoish-year flame-dying point. When it's too late for that, trial separation I guess, assuming you don't have kids.

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Washington, D.C.: Promiscuous friend? Would this person be wringing his/her hands about the promiscuity being a sign of psychological damage if the friend were a man not a woman?

Carolyn Hax: I -always- wonder that. And then I wonder--given that our risk is higher than theirs, and therefore that female promiscuity is riskier behavior than (hetero) male promiscuity, should it be treated with equal alarm? I think we kind of have to err on the side of fairness, but then it seems like PC trumps reason, which never makes me feel good.

So then all promiscuity is bad, and you get called a prude, like me. Which I guess is the best of the three.

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Downtown Washington, D.C.: Until what time does this chat go? (Is that a sentence?)

Carolyn Hax: Yes, and 2, but more like 2 whatever (not a sentence).

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Farifax, Va.: Carolyn, your advice to Envious in Iowa was spot-on.

Dan Savage mentioned you in a column the other day and I wondered if you knew each other personally or just professionally. Can I write 'Santorum' in this chat or is it a bad word now?

Also, a close relative of mine badly needs to go to therapy but refuses. Is there anything I can say to this relative to convince him to go?

Carolyn Hax: Thank you.

We have e-mailed but never met. You can write "Santorum" if it's preceded by "Rick," but then it becomes too dull for an advice chat and I won't post it.

No.

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Lightbulbs: What if you do have kids?

Carolyn Hax: You start weighing bad vs bad, preferably with the help of a really good family therapist, to try to determine the less bad influence on them: divorce and all attendant emotional and household disruption, vs growing up in a household with parent who's bossy, arrogant, controlling, lazy, etc.

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Coping (not really) w/ death: I find myself getting grumpy, annoyed, and irritated by things that probably wouldn't be so bad normally, but my Dad just died last week.

I know I should give myself time to grieve that, but is there any way I can try to moderate things so that the little stuff doesn't bother me so much? Any of your thoughts or those from others would be appreciated.

Carolyn Hax: I'm sorry about your dad.

Ideally, you can simplify your life enough, temporarily, to minimize your exposure to annoying little stuff. Just cite your very legit reason and beg off a few things.

If that's -really- not possible (and you're not just telling yourself it's not possible, we're all so much less indispensable than we think), then all you can do is take private time whenever you can get it, be as affectionate as possible to people you care about and apologize liberally when you snap.

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Bethesda, Md.: Carolyn, What do you do when your head and gut are telling you to leave but you physically can't? I have nowhere to go.

Carolyn Hax: I don't believe that. There's always somewhere to go. What's your situation?

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Washington, D.C.: I, too, saw the reference to you in Dan Savage's column the other day, and thought, "oh, how cool, I know her... " And then thought, No I don't, I just read her column.

It made me curious about how many other people think they have a personal relationship with you because they read this chat. And is that weird?

Carolyn Hax: I suppose, but other than when I'm online or reading certain e-mails, I'm in a bubble that resembles a pretty normal life. Which I guess is to say that it's only weird if I think about it, so I try not to.

Besides, I do empty the contents of my head publicly four times a week and on matters of personal life, so it would be a bit Garboish of me to deflect the idea that people know me. You guys know a fair amount, and that's okay with me as long you also understand you aren't seeing anything close to the complete picture.

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Arlington, Va.: Carolyn, I love your column and chats but I thought your answer in Wednesday's column displayed a double standard. Imagine if a man had written in and said, "I'm engaged to be married and I just saw a picture of my fiance? when she got married the first time. She was beautiful then, she has put on some pounds since then. Am I wrong to want her to be as thin and pretty as she was for her first husband?" You would have, rightly, torn him to pieces. I thought you were much too nice to her. After all, she says they picked it out together, so is the only reason it's a problem is that it's not as big as the one he bought the first wife? Totally icky. I don't think a man would have been treated as nicely, but maybe I'm wrong on that one.

Carolyn Hax: I didn't think I treated her nicely. Oh well. I also think your comparison is apples and oranges.

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twoish-year flame-dying point?: Holy spork!; Nobody told me about this. I'm in a 6-month old relationship with a late twentysomething (like myself), and we have just moved in together. Life very happy, satisfying, fulfilling, all that. Should I start to worry after a year and a half from now?

Carolyn Hax: Only if you look at him then and think, "I wish we weren't living together so it would be easier for me to leave."

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Baby-ville: Okay, lots of friends and co-workers having babies and the shower invites are rolling in (no problem, that was me three years ago.) But yesterday I got an e-invite saying, (name changed) "Let's Welcome John Doe!;" Um, this baby isn't due until November, but now we have the sex and name out on the web.

This kid can be googled and he's not even born yet. Doesn't anyone save any surprises for the birth, anymore. (I'm old, and I know it...)

Carolyn Hax: Me too. I don't like prenatal introductions myself, but it's more a fear or unhatched chicken-counting. Childbirth for the most part is routine, but scary stuff does happen.

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Alexandria, Va.: For the person whose dad just died -- I'm so very sorry for your loss. Please consider going to a grief counselor (contact your local hospice for a reference). I did so after my baby girl died unexpectedly last summer and she's why I can still function in society. My husband went separately to a psychiatrist. We didn't take our grief/anger out on each other but instead were there to support and love each other and our son, who was 20 months old at the time. My sister and brother-in-law did not seek counseling after BIL's father died from a brief but difficult bout with cancer. A few weeks later, they're arguing while I'm on the phone with sis, and she was talking divorce (they're still together but it wasn't necessary for them to go through that -- guess it was the "stigma" of counseling they couldn't get past). Please talk to someone who can help.

Carolyn Hax: Wise suggestion, thank you. And what a devastating story.

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Liz...: Can you post a link for Dan Savage's column? Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: Savage Love

Carolyn Hax: Warning, there's an ew factor.

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Oy: Moves in after 6 months and is sporked out that flames may wane? People like this should be forced to wear signs. Seriously, 6 months? It takes longer than that for the Montana DMV to send you your driver's license, for the love of mittens.

Carolyn Hax: I love mittens.

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Lonely jerk: Hi Carolyn,

Do you think that all people who exhibit controlling behavior or act like jerks deserve to be alone?

You always encourage people to dump the control freaks, or to not bother dating the jerks. But there has to be somebody for those type of people, right? Right??!;

Carolyn Hax: Therapists.

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College Park, Md.: I don't know if I'm just really naive or idealistic, but is it common for guys to cheat on their wives? I am a 30-year-old single woman, and recently I went out of town for a meeting. Tons of the married guys there were actively pursuing women, and I know that several actually violated marriage vows. I asked a guy friend of mine (single) what he thought, and he started babbling about the "out of state" rule and that cheating is to be expected from 20 and 30 something married guys.

Is that true? Am I totally naive or just holding myself to a higher ethical standard than other people? Does this mean I am doomed to disappointment because every guy thinks about cheating?

Carolyn Hax: Thinks about cheating, or cheats? Big difference--maybe, not coincidentally, the difference between the "tons" who chased skirts and the "several" who went on to take them off. I dunno. Maybe I'm getting old (definitely) and soft (alarmingly), but I can't get as worked up as I used to about impure thoughts and/or flirtatious gestures. Just don't act on them, right? Call me naive or idealistic, too, but I believe nowhere near "every" guy does that.

Oh, and be wary of seeing yourself as holding to a higher ethical standard.

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Gift faux pas? (fluff question): Hi Carolyn,

Recently, I sent a friend of mine who just had a baby a gift through the mail. I bought the gift at Target, and the only box I could find to mail the gift was a Nordstrom box.

Was that bad? Should I have sent a disclaimer with the gift mentioning that the container did not match the content, or vice-versa? Is this necessary at all, or should I just let them figure it out?

I guess the reason I fret over this is that I don't want to mislead people, but also don't want them to be disappointed, or even worse, mad at me.

I know, I know, there are much worse things in the world.

Carolyn Hax: There are worse things in the world, except people who would get snitty with you over a gift box.

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Reston, Va.: Carolyn,

Sorry, I've got to sort of disagree with your response to Land of Lightbulbs. When one spouse sees the other as "bossy, arrogant, fat, lazy, controlling," its hard to keep up a semblance of a respectful relationship, and harder to keep up the semblance of a loving relationship. Kids should not be raised within such marriages (or unions), as the relationships of married parents have a lot to do with what kids think of as "normal" long-term relationship behavior. "Divorce and all attendant emotional and household disruption" is better for kids than living in a household where one parent regards the other with disdain.

Also, for what it is worth, flames can go to a smolder and re-ignite from time to time, which makes growing old together fun and full of surprises (I know from experience). If you can't see any hope of re-ignition, if you can't see growing old together happily, do both of you, your husband, and kids a favor and find a way to move on with dignity.

Carolyn Hax: No need to apologize, I appreciate what you said. And I agree with you more than it might appear; the difference is, sitting in my big chair, I don't feel it's right for me to tell unhappily married people that they owe it to their kids to divorce. It's such a huge, emotional, traumatic thing, and there are so many variables (degree and visibility of unhappiness, maturity of parents, ages of kids, etc) and there's so much range in parents' and kids' reactions (some crumple, some thrive) that I'd rather that kind of counsel come from someone much closer to the people involved.

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Gift Box: Well, Awkward Moments could ensue if the gift recipient uses the clue (Nordstrom box) and tries to return or exchange the gift. Methinks a disclaimer is in order.

Carolyn Hax: Oh right, I forgot the perfect opportunity to set things straight: "I won't be hurt if you return or exchange it, but please know it's from Target, not Nordstrom. That was my only box."

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Gift boxes: my mom wrapped my brother's new bathrobe hooks in a digital camera box. don't you think that was a teensy bit cruel?

Carolyn Hax: Uncle.

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Re: Land of lightbulbs: I've been the guy you described; disengaged, lazy, etc. But, my wife had the self-awareness to realize that almost everything in a relationship is a two-way street so she also made an effort to be more engaging, outgoing, etc. Not to say that it was her responsibility to change my behavior, but it seemed that we were both reacting to each other's faults/tendencies and were in a joint decline. It could be that there are some things about you (or both of you) that are causing him to withdraw. Make sure you're someone he still wants to be with before assuming it's all his fault that he's not what you want.

Carolyn Hax: Another ad for the high road. Thanks.

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re: Savage Love: Definitely an "ew" factor. Yeech. I've obviously become a prude in my old age. First Madonna... now this!;

Carolyn Hax: I think Madonna does, in fact, get a nickel for every time someone mentions her name.

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"True Blue Friends": You answer to the "be alone, external meter" person was okay until you got to the last line.

"If he's true blue.."?!;

Uh, maybe it's a male/female perceptive difference, but male experience translates that into...

"Please remain emotionally connected to me, spend a lot of time with me, and generally act as my emotional support network until I meet some other guy I actually want, where I'll drop you like a rock, sucker."

The best way to go is walk away. If you need to be alone, be alone. Emotions don't magically have a platonic/non-platonic switch, and to do otherwise is to use someone. You don't get to "be alone", while concurrently keeping the dude in storage. If he's still around and single when you work it out, congrats, but thems the risks.

Carolyn Hax: Ew, please don't take my suggestion as endorsing the "remain emotionally connected to me, spend a lot of time with me, and generally act as my emotional support network" kind of platonic friendship. For one thing, that's not truly being alone. And, it's also a sucky thing to do to a person. I meant keep in touch, have the occasional beer.

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Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Hello Carolyn. I have a very good friend who is incredibly stingy. A group will go out to dinner, and he will contribute the bare minimum, so other people have to throw in more money. At parties, he never offers to bring anything -- chips, beer, etc. -- but happily imbibes other people's liquor and munches their food. People will ask him to bring something and he will either "forget" or bring something tiny, like a couple cans of Bud Lite. He promised me a birthday dinner. My birthday was four months ago, and I have since taken him out for his b-day treat. I'm still waiting for mine. I know he doesn't have a ton of money due to being in school, but I still don't think that's any excuse to be so blatantly stingy. Is this worth bringing up? How do I say something without seeming whiny?

Carolyn Hax: Ugh, I can't stand this person (I have my own version or two, like everyone else, I imagine). It's a disease I don't believe can be cured, at least not topically, so I really don't think it's worth bringing up.

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Savage Article: HUGE ew/ick factor. Carolyn, you gotta give a bigger warning than that.

washingtonpost.com: Apologies. That's my fault.

Carolyn Hax: Well, I knew what was there. My apologies too. BIGGER WARNING HERE: Savage column includes graphic talk of gay sex.

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Terrycloth: Carolyn: Can you refresh our collective memory on the signficance of the terrycloth headband? I know I'm missing a really good inside joke here...

Carolyn Hax: It's what I started wearing to dampen the effects of banging my head against the wall.

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Madonna's nickels: If that was true would she have agreed to that Gap commercial?

Carolyn Hax: Ka-ching. Really, she's the Einstein of shrewd.

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Woodbridge, Va.: What do you think about those 8 minute date (speed dating) events? I know you aren't keen on Internet dating so I was curious what you thought about this dating concept. A friend did it and said it was a great, low key way, to meet new people.

thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Circulating is circulating, just don't go in it looking for Love.

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Washington, D.C.: I loved the letter in last Saturday's Post re: Nick's cartoons. It was coffee-through-the-nose funny. Not to mention, further proof that some should not read the paper unaccompanied. Tell Nick to keep up the good work.

Carolyn Hax: I will. Re the coffee, terrycloth is very absorbent.

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Carolyn Hax: Must go. Thanks everybody, and type to you next Friday.

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to be fair...: The Savage Love column has graphic descriptions regarding anal sex -- which is not synonymous with gay sex.

His original column requesting Santorum definitions explains why that distinction is appropriate...

Carolyn Hax: Hey, I said I was a prude. Thanks.

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