Tell Me About It

With by Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 5, 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.

Editor's Note: 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.


Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody. I'd like to start by saying that, yes, I have seen Dali's Last Supper. In person even. And it gives me the creeps.

Thanks, I feel much better now.


Duluth, Ga.: Should you goosh your ketchup to the side of the fries, or on top? Believe it or not, this leads to a very silly argument.

Carolyn Hax: If you're both trying to impose your way on other people and/or their fries, you're both wrong.

Otherwise, definitely to the side.


Mt. Pleasant, Washington, D.C.: Why didn't you just tell that poor woman this morning to leave her gay boyfriend, and help him through therapy if she feels guilty? (Or get him to a doctor, could be physical).

If there's three things a man out to do for his girlfriend, it's take out the trash, mow the lawn, and provide a decent romp at the drop of a hat. Frankly, we're not good for much else...

Carolyn Hax: Hey, don't sell yourself/selves short. You forgot car maintenance.


Washington, D.C.: In a few months, everything will change and I won't have anything anchoring me to this town -- I just finished my MA, my lease expires and all of my housemates are moving to different parts of the country, I'm not really tied to my job, and most of my friends have now moved on to other parts of the world.

How do I begin to make the decision about where to go? I'm excited but a bit at a loss, too. There are so many possibilities ...

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I bet when you start isolating each possibility and really thinking about it, you'll find that not that many appeal to you. So that's where I'd start--put together some concrete ideas and mentally try them on. Enjoy.


New York, N.Y.: Hi Carolyn,

We have friends who are expecting a set of twins. Short of a night nurse, which we of course cannot afford, in your experience what are the best gifts for new parents of twins? (Or is it just 2x everything, plus 4,000 diapers?)

Thanks! Hope you are enjoying your boys!

Carolyn Hax: We are, thanks, immensely. Here's what the perfect gift was for us: Make dinner (or dinners, plural, that are fully prepared and can be frozen), drop them off in disposable containers, and assure your friends that they are fully absolved from having to write you a thank-you note.

Then, down the road, babysit. They'll vote you Friend of the Year.

FWIW, clothing isn't as helpful as at least I used to think. Immediate needs are usually covered, and when you try to fill future needs you can't always guess the right size/season.


San Francisco, Calif.: HELP ME! I am confused. Your response to the intimacy issue in today's column struck a chord with me. I am not currently in a relationship but recently have been asked out on some dates -- the problem is, I don't feel attracted to some of them and don't know what I should do. We talk on the dates but it's boring and the whole intimacy issues looms above me (i.e. if i cant even make conversation in the first couple of outings how will we ever communicate better?). So, I guess my general question is: How to know when to say when? How many chances should I give? This one guy is nice on paper, but i don't FEEL anything. Am I thinking too much? Should I just trust that when I meet someone I TRULY click with that it will be better? (as you can see, I don't have much experience). Am I making this harder than it is?

Carolyn Hax: Probably, since I think we all do. If you're not attracted to the conversation, bail. If you're attracted to the conversation but not the body, give it a little time. Howzat.


Washington, D.C.: RE: Non-Boinking Boyfriend.

Yeah. As a guy I'm insulted. She should tell him to put out or get out.

Carolyn Hax: You guys should unionize.


Arlington, Va.: I always enjoy your insight and think you show great perspective. Thanks for sharing this with us. And, not suprisingly, I am looking for some of this perspective.

Does "I need space" mean that someone needs space or that someone is ready to move on? I know I should ask for clarification, but there has been so much space lately that I haven't had an opportunity.

When we are apart (for 5-6 days at a time after a year of staying together every night and the nine months prior building up to that) I feel hurt and angry that he does not want to be with me. When we are together the anger subsides. Is this just a symptom of my insecurity or is it time to break up? Or both?

FWIW I am a very independent woman who has been happily single for years at a time, which really makes me mad at myself for feeling so dependent on someone else's whims.

Carolyn Hax: I'm not sure I get it. Are these regular 5- to 6-day breaks, and have they been imposed by him with the explanation that he needs a breather from you?

If that's the correct read, then I think the question you need to answer for yourself is whether you feel he's asking a reasonable thing, given your circumstances as a couple, or whether he's jerking you around. Right now you're caught up in your own reaction/confusion/pain, and I think the clarity is probably in what's on -his- mind right now. If that makes any sense. Then, once you figure it out, your course of action might come to you just as a logical next step.


Gender Stereotyping: I really hate the idea that a 'real' man should always be ready for sex. Mis-matched libidos are a problem for a lot of couples I've known, and at least half the time it was the woman who wanted more sex. Everyone's libido is different. A man who doesn't want constant sex really isn't rare.

Carolyn Hax: You're right, of course, but it was fun while it lasted.

And the part about breaking up in response to mismatched libidos was pretty much right. People put themselves through hell over this.


Washington, D.C.: extreme extrovert moving in with my introverted SO. Tips for giving enough space?

Carolyn Hax: Learn to read SO's signs, vs. what your signs would be if you were in the same situation. And, talk. Introversion is not a free pass to freeze a partner out.


Arlington, Va.: Hey Hax,

Ignorant male about to ask a pregnancy question. How long after stopping use of birth control (pill in our case) do most women become pregnant? We've been trying for about four months now, and we're beginning to wonder if our timing is bad or if there is something else medically going on. Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: Ooh, thank you for asking this question. The last time the fertility issue came up, a couple of weeks ago I think, a few people were annoyed that I didn't underscore the point that a woman's fertility starts to plummet at, like, 22.

Anyway. Here's what I've been told about this. It takes a different amount of time for everybody. Some people try and bam, first month (not good if she's just off the pill, BTW), and some people take a year or more. The reason I brought up the age thing is that the increasing age of the mother-to-be is reflected best in the number of months it takes to get pregnant. So, while it's commonly believed that women are becoming infertile right and left in their 30s, it's really just that it takes a woman, on average, longer to get pregnant the later she tries. And, of course, the window does close for good at some point--and it's not like it's 40 or 45 for everybody. Your bod kind of makes up its own mind on that, so one can assume there's any "safe" age.

So, in other words, 4 mos is pretty early to panic. It can't hurt to talk to her OB-GYN about this stuff. (I say this hoping s/he will say to you that it's an unpredictable thing and you kind of just need to roll with it. If you will.)


USA: Hey Carolyn,
Love the chat. Here's my situation. I've been dating a girl for a couple of months who I like but don't feel real sparks for. For my birthday she gave me two tickets to a concert I really want to see, in a city about two hours away. She's offered to drive us and everything. The concert won't happen until next month however, and I'm finding my feelings sort of fading as the days go by. Do I stop seeing her before the concert and take someone else? Stick it out until then and then break up with her? Break up with her but tell her I'd still like to take her to the concert?


Carolyn Hax: Break up and offer to give the tickets back. If she refuses, then say you'd still like to take her. Sigh.


Bowie, Md.: Hung out with my new boyfriend's parents for the first time. His father made an extremely racist remark. His father's opinions do not matter to me but my boyfriend's do. I would really have to re-examine my feelings about the relationship if I discovered that my boyfriend is racist as well. Should I bring this up? And how?

Carolyn Hax: "Hey, something your dad said is really haunting me." Good luck.


Re: Mismatched libidos: Who wants to have sex and when is also a matter of control, and folks who feel like they have to have power over the other person frequently use sex to gain such power. Just my 20 cents.

Carolyn Hax: Indeed. Thanks.


Concert Tickets: Break up with her and give back the tickets. Buy your own ticket. Don't be an a--hat.

Carolyn Hax: Or, you could say it that way.


New York: "Ignorant Male" should also realize that women can get pregnant only a few days every cycle. He and his SO should check out ovulation predictors, which help tremendously.

Carolyn Hax: Oh right, I meant to add that but my answer was already taking forever. The window for most women is two weeks after the start of her last period. So, block off 1.5 to 2.5 weeks after to be safe, and get happy.


St. Cloud, Minn.: I'm at the end of my rope. I married great guy -- who also turned out to be a critical control freak -- after a 3.5 year relationship/ engagement. After almost five years together, I've frigging had it with the unending arguments about my right to have private conversations, my right to have friends of my own, and my right to participate in activities that don't necessarily involve or interest my husband. He thinks he even has veto power over my hairstyle.

At first, I wrote some issues off as "not worth fighting about" and gave in. Of course it snowballed. Now, it seems like every problem I have is either my fault, rooted in my flawed psyche, or can be blamed on some past trauma of his (caused by someone else, of course.) Or, my favorite: If I just tried harder to please him, the problem would solve itself.

I'm sick of "trying." I didn't get married to be a slave to someone else's emotional well-being. I'm planning on seeking therapy to get insight on my issues. I suggested he do the same, but he said, I'm not the one with the problems." Okaaaay.

Is there any hope, or should I write this one off and start over?

Carolyn Hax: You already know. No children, I hope, right?


Tickets?: Whoa there, missy. The tickets were a GIFT. He really has no reason to offer them back. Keep 'em and take a friend, or some new chicky. DO not take her as the uncomfortableness will make it an unpleasant evening for both.

sue it'd be nice to give 'em back but hey, nice and $0.05 gets you a bland cup of coffee at any greasy spoon diner

Carolyn Hax: Well, I've got the warm fuzzies all over now. And, I disagree. Gifts under any other circumstances don't have to be returned (as long as we don't get started on engagement rings) (please let's not get started on engagement rings), but in this case the tickets were a let's-do-this-together gift, and so the stand-up thing would be to offer to give them back. Stand-up and 4 bucks will get you a caramel macchiato with some really decent, loyal, worthwhile companions.


Austin, Tex.: "Taking Charge of Your Fertility." Best book on family planning out there -- it tells you how to recognize the 4 days or so per cycle when a woman is fertile. Makes getting pregnant a lot less a shot in the dark.

Carolyn Hax: If you will. Thanks.


Re: Fertility Question: Also, don't automatically assume the issue is with her. If it's time to bring it up to the OB/GYN, it's also time to go get a sperm count. This could save a lot of time and trouble in the long run.

Carolyn Hax: True about checkingboth, but my suggestion re talking to OB wasn't about treating it as a problem now, but about getting an informed explanation of when to worry and when not to.


St. Cloud, Minn.: Holy spork. Nope, no kids.

Carolyn Hax: Good. Now I'll play therapist: "So, how did my answer make you feel?"


Farragut West, Washington, D.C.: Carolyn:

I broke up with my girlfriend of two years after finding out she'd been cheating on me for the entire time we were together (with multiple guys). I found out she did the same thing to her next boyfriend. It's been more than a year since we split and now she wants to get back together. She says she's been in therapy for the past several months to try to figure out why she cheats. I was close to proposing marriage to her when we broke up. Should I slowly wade back into this, or run like the wind?

Carolyn Hax: B.) Wind. I suppose it's possible she's all better and really loves you, but since the therapy is only months old, I'm more inclined to believe she has come to you out of fear. Not that fear negates the possibility that she really does love you--it doesn't, but I think it does preclude a happy ending. She needs to get healthy, and she should be doing that sans crutch.


Control Freak: Geez o Pete -- In 3.5 years of courtship and engagement this woman did not have a CLUE that her guy was a control freak?!;?

Carolyn Hax: Easy, there. People put on all kinds of courtship faces, plus the pheromone haze can get thick.


Need my own headband: What to do when you're both control freaks? Lately it seems like we argue constantly, and neither one of us wants to concede on even the smallest issues. We've gone through phases like this in our relationship before, but this time it's really bothering me. We've both been under a lot of stress in the past year, mostly professional. We're thinking about marriage counseling, but what about techniques to break the reactionary cycle and stop with the same old exchanges?

Carolyn Hax: Start conceding on the smallest issues. You can do it! GO GO GO GO ...


Curious, Va.: Hi Carolyn

How can you tell if a guy likes you enough, for you to not be afraid to ask him out without going down in flames? Or should I wait for him to make a move.

I am a junior in college, and he's tutoring me once a week. He's 24 and a grad student. I was kinda sorta getting the impression he liked me, he's very friendly and a little flirty, pats my back, eye contact, that kind of thing. But he is only around me when he's tutoring me. He doesn't mention doing anything other than "the next lesson," once he and I and a friend of his grabbed lunch after tutoring and before his class but that was just spontaneous and I still can't tell what's up. He introduces me as his "student" when we happen to run into people.

And so far I am not sure if I am even giving out "hey I think I have a crush on you" vibes or not. I have e-mailed him with class questions and he replies helpfully but the e-mails are fairly straightforward and professional. I guess I don't want to do anything to mess it up. He joked the other day about someone trying to fix him up with someone but he wasn't interested in the person so I don't want to do anything unless I have a little more to go on.

What should I do? Should I continue to be really nice to him in the hopes that one day he'll figure it out? Or will he just take me for granted then. (really nice as in, I grabbed lunch for him the other day because he was stuck at his desk after our session for another three hours).

We'll likely be working together for several months yet so maybe I should just let it go.

Thank you Carolyn.

Carolyn Hax: "How can you tell if a guy likes you enough, for you to not be afraid to ask him out without going down in flames?" Heh. Ask a guy--they're stuck doing this ALL the TIME, remember?

Anyway, as long as he's your tutor, hooking up might be verboten. Is this a formal teacher-student thing or an informal bit of work on the side? If it's not a forbidden thing, then either ask him out with the full expectation of his saying no, or, if you cringe at the idea of working with him after that, wait till the several months are up.


About the control freak in St. Cloud, Minn.: All of this assumes that the reader hasn't given her control-freak husband reason to invade what she considers her privacy.

Have you had an affair? Have you lied to your husband about anything, big or small? Has the trust you once had been breached in some way?

If you're not on the up-and-up with him (see Carolyn's column from today about "intimacy"), how can you expect your spouse to trust you?

Although having the last word about YOUR hair is a bit much.

(From the "Been-there-done-that-got-that-T-shirt" section of the Peanut Gallery.)

Carolyn Hax: Ooh, please don't use my column as justification for using controlling tactics against a partner who lied or had an affair. If you're going to take someone back under those circumstances, you have to forgive, forget, or find some other way to trust the person again (with the narrow exception of major substance abuse, which does demand a certain unhappy vigilance). If you can't, do both of you a favor and end it. Gestapo tactics are never warranted in an intimate relationship, no matter how badly someone screwed up.


Controlling/Arguing: I wish I could say it's as easily said as done, but my husband and I both have the same philosophy when it comes to arguments/disagreements: Is this the hill I want to die on? Basically, if there is a conflict, it goes to whomever the issue is more important to. It works very well for us and we get along great -- if I give in on something, I know fully well that when something comes around that is important to me, he'll give it over to me.

Carolyn Hax: Well, wait a minute. Why are you even getting into the aguments in the first place? The best time to drop something is before you even pick it up. So he likes to put ketchup ON his French fries. So you get a few soggy ones when you really prefer them all crisp. So?

And if you find that the only peaceful times are when you cave on everything, choose a nonheated moment to point out what you've been doing, and ask him please to meet you halfway from now on. It actually is as easily said as done; unfortunately, though, you just need both of you to do it.


Rockville, Md.: Hi!
I'm a physician, and just did a quick PubMed search re return of fertility after stopping oral contraception. It confirmed what I remembered -- for the first three months it's possible to get pregnant, of course, but fertility rates are much lower than normal. They may be still somewhat lower than normal from 4-10 months, after which they return to normal.

So, not being able to get pregnant in the four months after stooping the pill would be very normal and not indicative of another problem.

Carolyn Hax: Hi! Thanks muchly.


Re: Cheating Ex: Okay, I am the girl described in that letter. How do I prove that I HAVE changed, and that I DO love him?

Carolyn Hax: Soo. Why are you rushing back into a relationship?


Washington, D.C.: Is there such a thing as too serious too soon? I'm not quite six months in with a guy who is GREAT to me and so opposite of all of the scared-of-commitment people I and all of my friends have dated in the past that they're all convinced that I should be second guessing things more (even though they like him). Should I be?

Carolyn Hax: Enjoy, but keep one foot on dry land.


Cheater: I know a hundred guys who cheat on their girlfriends and wives every time they turn their back. It is considered fairly normal, almost "healthy" to have the perfect wife who raises the kids and acts as a partner and have the salacious "fun" on the side.

I know this isn't ideal, but I am sensing a double standard that you advocate therapy for this girl who is doing what guys do all the time.

Carolyn Hax: What planet do you occupy? If I'm the alien here, I'll cry.


Confused in Maryland: Carolyn,

I have been dating a guy for 11 months now. I myself am an ambitious person and am moving up the career ladder. The guy I date is a nice guy and a good person. We have fun in every aspect of our relationship. However, he has no personal ambition and doesn't seem to realize the small things that are important to me (taking me to a nice restaurant every once in a while, taking a nice walk with me and my dog, which I have invited him to do and he always says "soon"). I love him and he loves me. In the beginning he was more attentive, but he seems to take for granted the fact that I will be there. But I am tired of my feelings not being realized and his lack of effort towards me. Talking to him is useless as he sees it as an attack on him and his maturity level is one where you can't have a helpful, nurturing conversation. I don't know what to do, as I don't want to give up on him. I am frustrated and confused. Any advice?

Carolyn Hax: What do you love about him, exactly? Not being facetious, but curious. Sounds like he isn't your guy.


Re: Four Months to Conceive: A visit to Ob/Gyn is a good idea anyway (in case they haven't gone) so that they can get pre-natal vitamins and other information on ways to be healthy prior to pregnancy. An up-to-date physical exam (i.e. pap smear, breast exam) is a great thing to have BEFORE you become pregnant.

Carolyn Hax: And one word: folate.

Or two words: folic acid. Eat those green leafies.


Washington, D.C.: To that guy whose girlfriend was cheating on him--- go get tested for STDs! This cannot be said often enough!

Carolyn Hax: Okay!


Boston, Mass.: I majorly screwed up at work. I didn't meet a promise to a client and have been dealing with fixing it for the last three days. I have been at my company for less than a year. I want to get through this, but I have been on the verge of tears all day today. I am afraid that when my boss and I talk I will break down. How can I hold my self together? I need to be able to focus and listen and be rational.

Carolyn Hax: Hm. Perspective might work--imagine the worst-case scenario, which I imagine is losing your job, and see that it is a survivable thing. Really. This is just work and this is just a screwup and this too shall pass. Think back on all of your "unbearable" moments in life, and note how many of them were actually unbearable. (Answer: 0.) Now take a short walk on this beautiful day, see all the people out there getting through much worse [poo] than yours, and deal.

The crying thing sux, doesn't it? We should come with a factory-installed little switch.


Meeting Halfway: I'm not sure I like the idea of meeting your S.O. halfway on all disagreements. That sounds like it means both of you will be half-disappointed all the time.

Carolyn Hax: No meeting halfway on arguments, but meeting halfway on the idea of not pursuing every little difference to the point of argument. Ie, meeting each other halfway on letting things slide. No couple would survive if every little difference became a test of who more urgently wants to win.


Rochester, Mich.: What's a nice non-threatening way to tell your boyfriend that you're ready for a ring? Barring the usual games like using jealousy (although I'm certainly not wanting to be direct, which is in and of itself a game).

Start flashing my bare left hand around in front of his face? LOL

Carolyn Hax: Propose to him. You want him as a husband, right? Then screw the jewelry and go get him.


Re: Cheating Ex: In my case, I'm not rushing. It's been close to two years since we broke up. I haven't been with anyone since then. I miss him, and I still love him, and even if he does still love me, I'm afraid to call. I'm afraid he won't believe me.

Carolyn Hax: So you're a different person then? Sorry, I thought you really were the same girl. Just call. You can't make him believe you. Just lay your case out before him and let him make up his mind. Trusting him to do that much and accepting his answer will say a lot about how far you've come.


To the cheater and his 100 friends: I feel sorry for all of you, and all of your flings, don't you have more self-confidence and self-respect than that??

Carolyn Hax: Nice try, but I think I just heard the sound of words hitting granite.


Washington,D.C: Re: Cheater: Don't cry Carolyn!; You're not the alien. It sounds to me like Cheater is trying to justify his own behavior. I once knew a man who used to to twist anthropological theories that "man wasn't made to be monogamous" simply to justify cheating on his own wife.

Cheating is a betrayal of trust no matter who the perpetrator is. It can be forgiven, but it is NOT healthy. Just my two cents...

Carolyn Hax: Thanky.


Washington, D.C.: Carolyn,

What's your opinion on the best/fastest way to get over a broken heart?

Carolyn Hax: Don't push yourself to get over it. Just plod along in your new little life and see what good things it has to offer. They're there, but you have to blow all the tears/grief out first so they don't obstruct your vision.


Re: Cheater: If "cheater" was right, then why are all his cheatin' friends working so hard to hide their "almost-healthy" extramarital relationships from their perfectly understanding wives?

"Bye honey!; I'm going out with my girlfriend!;" Ha!;

Carolyn Hax: Well, there's that. Thanks for the excellent point.


Finally Sunny Philly: For the Fertility Guy - Had the same issue you and your SO are having. My OB/GYN said to give it a year before freaking. Lo and behold, my little one came. Hang tight, but don't get uptight!;

Carolyn Hax: Because then you'll get a bunch of screamingly nonhelpful people telling you it's not happening because you're too uptight, and then you'll really get uptight. Thanks.


New York, N.Y.: Dear Carolyn,

I've just been hit by a bombshell: my boyfriend of one year just told me that he wants to be with me and really wants to make a real commitment but in order to do that, he had to be completely honest with me. Basically, he has cheated on me several times (mostly just kissing, though as recently as three weeks ago). He said that he feels awful about it and will never do it again.

I don't know what to do. I feel like my heart's been broken. The weird thing is that I always thought that if a BF ever cheated on me, I would leave him. But now that it's happened, I don't know what to do. I can't believe it but I still love him and what's more unbelievable is that I can't imagine my life without him.

Do you believe in "once a cheater, always a cheater?" How do I sort through my feelings and decide what to do?

Carolyn Hax: I've said this many times, I don't believe in once-anything always-anything, with the possible exception of sex offenders. People are changeable, strange, dynamic, hard to predict--when they choose to be. It sounds as if your bf has chosen to change, and that's a change I'd be inclined to trust.

That said, I'm not the one who now has to decide whether to trust him from here. That's tough. I think all you can do is run his story through your own internal BS meter and see how it fares. Do his reasons both for cheating and for swearing it off make sense to you? Can you live with your sense of how he was when he was cheating (e.g. did he profess his undying luuuv and then lie to your face, or was he always a bit non-committal with you?)? Can you take this burst of honesty as a sign that he can be trusted from now on? Can you ever forgive him for dismissing your feelings so casually? That's where I'd start sorting. Good luck.


Re: the Meeting Halfway doubter: : If ALL your time in a relationship is spent winning/losing/meeting-halfway, maybe it's the wrong relationship. Good couples tend to agree naturally much of the time, so neither is disappointed.

Carolyn Hax: Always good to come back to that. Thanks.


To Boston who screwed up at work: The work world is full of employees who screw up, but damn short on those who are honest enough to acknowledge their mistakes, diligent enough to spend three days fixing the problem, and responsible enough to be remorseful to the point of tears. If you worked for me, I'd be more impressed by your reaction to this situation (even if accompanied by tears) than if you hadn't screwed up at all. Good luck - if they fire you (which they won't) it's their loss.

Carolyn Hax: I feel better, and I haven't even screwed up any more than usual. Thanks.


100 cheaters: Why are people assuming that chatter was a guy? S/He was arguing that carolyn was applying a double standard for chastising women for doing what guys do all the time. How revealing that folks assume that it had to have come from some guy trying to justify cheating.

Carolyn Hax: Show of hands who thought that poster was XX.


We grow up so fast: I would venture a guess that at least half your audience does not fit in "the under-30 crowd" description.

Do you have any plans to drop the age reference? I have a vague sense of shopping in the junior department when I pull up your excellent columns and chats.

Carolyn Hax: I thought it had been dropped, at least in most places. (And, thank you.)


For New York, cheating boyfriend: I would also question WHY he decided he must confess at this point ... if he has decided to commit to her, what is so freaking important about telling her right now?

Carolyn Hax: So there wouldn't be a big honking green festering secret between them. I applaud the guy. Painful as his admission was for the girl.


Reformed Cheater: I had a habit of cheating on boyfriends about 7 years ago. Then, surprisingly, I got it. I understood how horrible, disrespectful, immature, and mean it was. And I haven't done it since. I guess you could say I grew up.

Carolyn Hax: More applause, thanx.


Alexandria, Va.: Hi Carolyn - the other Post chat hosts often stray into the relationship arena when asked a relationship question, and offering apologies to you, answer the question.

So here goes: What is the best 2004 car to buy (new)?

What IS a ball pean hammer for?

What color should I paint my well lit half bathroom?

Carolyn Hax: I dunno, last car I priced and test-drove was a minivan, and I'm still in mourning.

A hammer with one hemispherical end of the head that's used in working metal.

Something dark with white trim, like navy blue or gray.

Apologies to everybody.


Happy cheating story?: Several years ago I found out my friend's boyfriend cheated on her -- had a one night stand. I found out because my then boyfriend and her boyfriend were business partners. She and I were friends first and I fixed her up with him, so my loyalties should have been with her, but business interests prevailed and I held my tongue with both of them (don't beat me up for this -- it's a tough call, and I wasn't positive).

Anyway, four months later he proposed to her. I heard from another mutual friend that it was his "final fling" to get "flinging" out if his system (he was quite a player before her but this was the only hint that anything happened after he met her) and that it made him realize that what he had with her was what he wanted for the rest of his life -- he had no more use for the casual stuff.

They have been married three years and are blissfully happy. I will never regret not telling.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I'm not going to beat you up, since in an upcoming column I tell someone who's not sure that s/he shouldn't blab.

As for whether that's actually a happy story, I don't know. Happy ending I guess but I still feel cheap.

But I'm posting this since I've since regretted not pointing out in that column how much it sucks that people gossip about these things. The first response when you've heard someone cheated on someone else should be to beseech this person to keep his or her mouth shut.

Now I really feel better. Thanks.


Speaking of being conscientious: My boss just told me I'll have to do the work on a major quarterly deadline upcoming in a couple of months. I'm already:

1. Doing my own job, which is full-time and then some.
2. Overseeing the full-time job of someone on maternity leave.
3. Overseeing the part-time job of someone who quit after six months.
4. Overseeing the full-time job of someone else who quit the job with which this project is associated.
5. Trying to hire people for two positions.

What should I do?

Carolyn Hax: Ask which of your other responsibilities can be set aside to make way for the quarterly thing, with your own suggestions at the ready, and hire as fast as you can.

I guess this is where I apologize to the workplace columnists. Especially if I'm wide right.


Washington, D.C.: My S.O. is an alcoholic in denial. When I went to ALANON, my S.O. FREAKED. What do I do?

Carolyn Hax: Are you right about the alcoholism? And, if yes, what did they tell you to do in Al-Anon?


Crying: Carolyn: I'm a crier too. Sometime it helps me to read the newspaper or watch CNN for a couple of minutes. Not for perspective, just to get my mind off things. Then you can revisit your own life after a 5-minute "vacation."
Good luck with the boss!;

Carolyn Hax: I'm for anything that works. Thanks.

Oy have to go. Thanks everybody, have a great weekend and type to youse next week.


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