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With Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 19, 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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West Coast: How does one go about getting over a really dumb pet peeve? My husband is a terrific guy but I can't stand listening to him eat. He's not sloppy or rude. In fact, his table manners are fine. Sometimes, eating is just audible. It doesn't bother me in anyone else, only him. I consider it such a petty little nothing of an annoyance that I don't mention it or react to it at all and I thought that after four years, I'd get over it but noooooo.... I find myself eating faster and then jumping up to clean up the kitchen. He thinks I'm being nice but I'm ready to climb the walls. How do I get over it already?

Carolyn Hax: I don't know, since you're probably listening for it now, and that's a hard thing to reverse, other than actively finding a way to like it. I.e., having him sent off to a gulag and missing him so badly that you'd give anything to hear his chewing noises again. Have you tried playing music or something?

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Metairie, La.: Hey Carolyn --

Agree or disagree: If your partner is the "right" person for you, you'd be willing to commit.

That statement doesn't seem true to me but it bothers me that I can't bring myself to make the leap of seeing my current man as even my boyfriend since he seems to be a great match for me.

Carolyn Hax: Disagree, because sometimes people have their own reasons for not being ready to commit to someone, even a great someone--like immaturity or [stuff] they still need to work through or youth or other priorities.

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Atlantis, D.C.: Carolyn, I'm hoping to get advice from you and the peanuts on this: How honest should one be when one's partner asks about how he, uh, measures up in the physical endowments department? Especially if the truth could be hurtful?

No Small Matter

Carolyn Hax: Oh brother.

"Of the 3 billion weiners on Earth, I believe yours is the biggest."

Or:

"You are perfect."

Or:

Find someone who isn't hung up on his johnson.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Dear Carolyn,

I am Catholic. Boyfriend is not. Boyfriend is not even Christian. He will attend services with me and respects my choice in this matter, he does not attend services for his faith. We are talking of getting married, do you think it would be improper to ask him to convert?

Carolyn Hax: Improper, I can't see how, since you're just asking. But I think you do have to ask yourself whether your BF shares your beliefs, and, if he doesn't, whether he would have any business professing a faith he doesn't have. If you love him the way he is, other-faith and all, seems to me integrity would be better served accepting him the way he is vs. making him do an insincere dance just for appearances' sake. Maybe ask him if your faith is growing on him, since he does attend your services, and whether he could see himself converting to it sincerely.

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Somewhere, USA: Dear Carolyn,
I have recently become engaged to a woman that I have been dating for two years. I don't know if there is a problem but she had ask me to keep our dating secret and the fact that we are engaged a secret as well. The only people who know besides us are her two sisters, her ex-husband and another couple we go out with. Her sisters always greet me with hugs and kisses but but if anyone else is around girlfriend does not want me to touch her.

I have ask her why the secrecy and she has said its better if I don't know until after I graduate next May and for now and wants me to trust her. In the meantime she is planning the wedding. Do you think this could be a warning sign?

Carolyn Hax: Whatever you call it, I think it sux. But my patience with games tends to be microscopic, while you might find it intriguing. Question is, are you ready to spend the rest of your life with this form of communication?

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RISDI: Hi Carolyn,

I'm realizing that I have a really screwed-up, detrimental dating M.O.

In short, what happens is a meet a guy, fall head over heels in love with him, imagine marrying him, and then he falls madly in love with me, and we're blissfully happy for maybe a month or two, and then I suddenly and spitefully break it off.

What I used to do is pick a fight with them and then dump them, trying to leave them thinking they've messed up; lately, I've graduated to cheating on them, then telling them it wasn't "working out" and letting the grapevine explain it to them later (we live in a fairly tight community).

In every case, it's the same, and I can't figure out why -- Literally, overnight, I go from crazy about someone to wanting them as far away from me as possible.

I've burned bridges with all these great men who could've been good friends had we not "gotten involved." I'm not proud of myself for hurting them, and I can't even trust myself anymore when I meet someone I might end up liking. I feel like I just don't know how to date, and it leaves me feeling pretty damn lonely.

Thoughts? Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: As you guys know, I'm all for our figuring out stuff like this on our own, but sometimes I think it makes sense to skip the middle-chick. Have you tried therapy? It exists for self- (and other-)destructive patterns, and you seem to be nursing a lulu. If I had to guess, I'd say you've got some basic source of unhappiness that you're trying to medicate away with these relationships.

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WASP, USA: Dear Carolyn,

The Jewish high holidays are coming up, and I have several new devout Jewish friends, clients, and acquaintances -- which is a new experience for this boy from a redneck Texas town. What is appropriate to say and or do? Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana seem quite serious holidays, without the secular softening and commercialization of serious Christian holidays. I don't think there's a Rosh Hashana Bunny, and the phrase "Happy Yom Kippur" sounds like an oxymoron to me. Alternatively, I could make it worse and ask "How's the atoning going?"

I don't feel quite right just ignoring it, but the seriousness of the holidays seems to make it possible to step in it pretty good. Thanks for your help.

Carolyn Hax: Ignoring them has worked pretty well for me for about 22 years, but in an awkward pinch you can throw out something neutral, like, "Did you get some time with family yesterday?"

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Somewhere, Conn.: Hi Carolyn,

Love your column, and I think you make good sense. My problem: I very much like this guy. Initially, he pursued me, I responded. Then he told me he just got out of a bad relationship, and isn't ready for anything right now. Still, we continue to spend time together. He knows I want more. He says he does really like me, and if he weren't in such a bad place, I'd be great for him. I don't actually like many men I meet, and have a difficult time giving up on him. I don't want to push him, I don't want to get hurt. Am I just being an idiot? How to navigate these rocky waters?

Carolyn Hax: Don't fight them, just kick back and see where they take you. It could be someplace extraordinary that validates your decision to trust your feelings, or you could get slammed into a rock--but if you've got your eyes open it won't hurt too badly, and at least you won't have any what-ifs.

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Size matters not: My boyfriend was similarly concerned (not obsessed, but concerned) about his perception of his smaller-than-he-might-like size. Not to be graphic, but the key for me has been not to reinforce his perception that size is the primary characteristic one might seek out -- so I use plenty of enthusiastic adjectives like "incredible, amazing, awesome, gorgeous" and yes, "perfect," all of which have been going over quite well and have gotten him past the need to hear the word "huge" or worse, something along the lines of "sufficient."

You know? It's been a Golden Rule thing -- I wouldn't want him to say "you're so skinny" when I'm not, instead, I want him to tell me that he loves my body, thinks about it all the time, etc...

We should all just make sure that the people we love and lust for know it.

Carolyn Hax: Can't argue with that, thanks.

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WeHo, Calif. Sporker: Eating peanut butter off my spork isn't solving my problem, but it's better than banging my head on the wall.

I'm dating a guy (I'm a guy; WeHo = West Hollywood... like Dupont Circle only bigger, warmer and more fabulous) and we are actually getting to know each other before we have sex. It was his idea; he has only been with one other man before. I find I like getting close to someone without the sex; I am falling for him. So the problem? I have been with a LOT of men. To the point that I am a recovering sex addict.

He already knows I am 12 stepping for a drug problem and he is cool with that. But I now feel, in a stunning turnaround, like I want to wait to have sex until I am close enough to him to tell him about the sex addiction -- the very thing that may make him run away screaming. I've been with other men since being in the program -- nonaddictive sex is still a great thing -- but never told anyone. I don't want to disclose too much too soon.

So? Get sexual, maybe fall in love, and then disclose? Or wait for intimacy and honesty before sex and risk losing it all? (Even as I write this I get the feeling that, if this is a deal breaker, I can't use sex to hold onto him.)

Oh, and what to do when the spork won't reach to the bottom of the JIF jar?

Carolyn Hax: Get a longer spork, or use your Ginsu knife to cut off the top of the jar.

Tell him before you have sex. Always, always follow your best instinct. That way, even if you lose him, you give yourself nothing to regret. The possibility of his fleeing absolutely does not justify withholding information your past promiscuity from a partner, and in fact is the main reason you need to disclose. It means you're aware of how important the information is, and therefore not telling him will be a lie of omission. Plus, either he loves you for who you really are, completely, or you've got a lie between you, and your whole stunning turnaround is just gas.

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Baltimore, Md.: Hi Carolyn; I'm in a long-distance relationship with my fiancee, and have pretty well decided that I need to break it off. After nearly two years of living apart, and rarely being able to see each other, the relationship has deteriorated to the point where I know I'm not in love with her anymore -- although I do still have strong feelings for her. Here's the problem. She has a really important exam coming up in a couple weeks, and is coming for a visit afterwords. I hate being untruthful to her (or anyone), but don't want her to mess up this exam (its a one-shot deal and she has to pass). And even when she comes to visit, she knows no-one but me here, and will have no-where to go and no-one to talk to when I tell her. I just don't know if I can go the entire visit pretending as if everything is OK. Any advice?

Carolyn Hax: If it were me, I'd want you to tell me now. Otherwise, you should tell her to cancel her trip because you're going to visit her after the exam, and drop your bomb then.

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London, UK: Hi Carolyn,

How likely do you think it is that someone could be well-adjusted (i.e., not need therapy for some unknown issue) yet simply not want to be in a committed relationship?

I'm a 33-year-old guy, and I'm trying to figure out whether I am destined to "fly solo." I like people generally, and I have a handful close friendships that give me most, if not all, of the emotional intimacy that I want.

I have been in one very good long-term relationship, but it ended (not by my choice) a few years ago. I was very sad when it ended but ultimately came to realize that it was probably the right thing for both of us.

I'm in an 8-month relationship now and it's going fine, but I -think- I could be almost as happy not-in-it as I am in it. It seems unfair to keep it going if it's not doing anything special for me.

What do you think?

Carolyn Hax: I think it would be a bit nutty to assume everyone on earth is wired to be half of a partnership, since we allow ourselves differences in every other respect. If you're happy on your own, you're happy on your own. Yay for you for (almost) knowing it.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Carolyn. Hope questions are not too slow to trickle in as Washingtonians enjoy day 2 of their 4-day weekend. What the spork?

Have a co-worker who is difficult on her best day. She is extremely negative and downright cruel to people. We're not usually the sort to take crap from anyone but have been walking on eggshells for a few years because we know she has had terrible family losses. FWIW, she was negative and cruel long before the family problems. She never seems to think that SHE is the problem in any situation and thinks she is passed over for projects because people are out to get her, not because she has a bad attitude and does not get the job done. How can we open her eyes to reality? Have you or any of the peanuts ever dealt with someone like this? Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Oh, speaking of long weekends--I have to skip next week's chat, unfortunately. You're all still welcome to drop by, of course. Thanks for reminding me.

Re co-worker, I'm sure all of the peanuts have dealt with something like this. People like her are everywhere. Along with cat people and dog people, I've long believed there are gratitude people and entitlement people--meaning, those who see whatever good thing life throws at them as a gift, and those who think life owes them something. The latter (your co-worker) tend to be angry people, because they're never satisfied, always certain their being screwed out of something, rarely aware of their own contribution to their disappointments, etc.

Frankly, I don't think it's her officemates' place to cure her of her outlook on life, but I do think you need to chuck the eggshell-walking and return to putting limits on her cruelty--but only to the extent that it affects productivity around the office. It's a job, not a party. She says something that compromises someone or something, you say "I don't think that's called for," or even a less confrontational, "Actually, I think [nice alternative here]." Neutralize as necessary, more than correct.

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Alabama: Carolyn, How does one know when one is ready to have kids? I know that I am not ready now, but I also know that I want to have kids in the future. Will there come a point when I just feel ready? I'm afraid I will worry this decision to death.

Also, FWIW, I vote for option three on the physical endowment question.

Carolyn Hax: Me too. Can't understate the value of someone secure.

Re kids--I suspect this is one of those personal-epiphany things where one answer just can't apply, since some people are ready right away and some people need to grow or age into it for various (and again, very individual) reasons, but I'll give you what worked for me in case it helps. It was when all the things I had been afraid to give up became things I was freely willing to give up, both because they seemed less important than they used to, and because the things kids had to offer seemed more important than they used to. Actually, that answer might just be vague enough to be universal. Bordering perhaps on useless. But there you have it.

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For WASP, USA: As a Member of the Tribe, I always like it when somebody gives me a nice "Happy New Year" on or near Rosh Hashana. Yom Kippur is a little more serious, but nobody should ever be offended by an attempt at congeniality.

Carolyn Hax: Many posts like this, but this one was particularly well said. Thanks muchly.

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Broke the Code -- Far from D.C.: So, how many people have noticed that the best way to get you to see their question, is to make sure that the nucleus of your audience (millions of people in the D.C. area) are without power for their computers? Either that or have something really awesome, tragic, or witty to say?

Carolyn Hax: Or just be the first thing my eyes hit when I'm feeling pressured to post something.

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Toronto, Canada: Re fiance with the exam. Would you really want to know? I had a serious boyfriend who broke up with me just before exams and I was a wreck and furious. Went home to parents, did hard physical labour, couldn't eat anything and hardly studied. Though I have to admit I did very well on the exams. But what if she fails?

Carolyn Hax: I would really want to know, but I'm beginning to suspect I'm a sicko that way. I hate it when people try to ease my pain for me--the condescension of it (perceived maybe, which is why the sicko thing) p's me off more than the pain itself. But, it's nor fair to project that same attitude/hangup on others, and of course what if she does fail. Would that make it his fault? For being upfront? I don't like what a "yes" answer implies, but for some people it might be a yes. I guess as her fiance, he should know her well enough to know when she'd prefer her bad news.

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Carolyn Hax: Did I wiggle out of that one okay?

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Chicago, Ill.: Hi Carolyn,
Do you think it's weird that I feel like I'm betraying my boyfriend when I have casual lunches/outings with other male friends? My boyfriend knows about the lunches and isn't possessive or manipulative AT ALL, but I can't help feeling bad when I say, "Hey, I'm going to lunch with Bob." Maybe it's because I'd feel jealous if he went out with other girls.
Thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: That a double standard should make you feel weird. Points for recognizing it, though not as many as if you addressed it. If your outings are as harmless as his would be if he had them, then kicking your jealousy would seem like the winner here. If they aren't harmless--ie, you suspect these guys have other intentions that you're conveniently blocking out--or if you can't kick the jealousy, or if you ever plan to enforce it, your casual stuff has to stop. Fair is fair.

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Enthusiasm might get me in trouble: When I am around someone I find attractive I tend to get very giddy. Just very upbeat and happy and chatty. I can't play it cool, I can't be "suave," I can't pretend I'm being smokily sexy. I get effervescent and smile ear to ear a lot. I'm very open and friendly. This can be a lot for some people.

A party is coming up soon. A guy I particularly fancy is going to be there. What we are is still a question mark. Had two dates, first one was passionate, second was warm but more Norman Rockwell-esque PG rated sort of date. We haven't seen each other in a while due to vacations/work/etc and I am very excited we're going to be spending some time.

I'd like to play it cool, but I know I probably will fail miserably at that sort of thing. I am just too excitable for that.

I don't want to scare the bejeebus out of the guy. How do I do this? I can't do games and it seems like that's what works for everyone else.

Carolyn Hax: No no no. Some guys will be so sick of put-on smokiness, will find your enthusiasm so refreshing, will be so taken by you as you really are, that they will seek you out. May not happen often and may not even happen with this guy, but when it does happen it will have been worth the wait.

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Not near Washington, D.C.: Hi, Carolyn,
Amazed by how you do it post-hurricane and with the little ones around...
OK, my question: I love someone but I'm already married and so is he. We already know our kids are the priority so we're not pursuing anything beyond a close friendship and endless fantasies. I just don't know how long I can last this way. Sometimes I get very frustrated with our situations and feel our conversations just aren't enough. What should I do?

Carolyn Hax: I have eye circles down to my jawline and hair up to the rafters and no hurricane up in New England to blame them on, but otherwise life is pure silk.

What should you do? Recognize that the two things you're permitting yourself to enjoy are precisely your problem, especially the fantasies. The close friendship is most likely undermining, even corroding, whatever good things you two still have with your spouses, since you're saving your best for someone else. The fantasies are even more harmful, and unfair, since you're forcing your spouses to compete with an imaginary ideal that they by definition will never achieve.

Maybe you two would have something better with each other than each of you has now at home, but you don't know that--your affections have never been put to the test of familiarity, monotony, kids. It's just as possible that these seemingly superior feelings would end up just as lukewarm as your past ones, or even cooler. Either way, the speculation is killing you. Either end your marriage, or suck it up and let go of the "friendship."

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The Dump: I just got dumped last week by my long distance boyfriend. Thankfully, I've got much else to focus on and work for and some reliable pals to vent to.

The issue is that the ex-boyfriend wants to go back to what we were before the romance. We were longtime friends, but having experienced what I just experienced with him, I don't see how I can erase and record over the last six months, which were mostly awesome and then went sucky for the last month. What made it go so bad was a startling lack of communication on both our parts. Similar to the scenarios described in your column today. Rather than fixing anything, he just wanted to end it.

I can't say I wasn't having doubts myself, but I sure thought our better-than-average friendship would ensure that we'd try and deal with these things. He wants to skip that part and go back to friend status. I'm not feeling too friendly and feel that going back to friends is going backwards -- leading to getting too wrapped up in his life and then I'll find myself back on this merry-go-round. Any thoughts that might help?

Carolyn Hax: Just that "last week" is pretty durn fresh, and that you shouldn't expect yourself--and he shouldn't expect you--to have any solid perspective on this right now. Ask for time to figure out how you feel, and if he won't grant you that, tell him you're sorry he feels that way, because demanding all or nothing right now will net nothing.

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Chicago, Ill.: Not a wedding question, but a HUSBAND one. I was invited to a wedding tomorrow for a friend in Chicago. When we were invited, I asked hubby if he wanted to go with me. He said sure. Fast forward to the day before the wedding. Hubby wants to skip wedding for his intramural flag football game, but in his words "feels bad about it." I am non-committal in my responses saying that it is up to him and he should let me know what he decides.

What I really want to say to him is that how could he be raised by such a moron (or be such a big jerk) that he thinks it's OK to back out of a wedding the day before it for an intramural football game.

Am I being dishonest in not communicating this to him? I just don't want to get mad so he goes to the wedding and blames me for his horrible time because I "made" him go. I am very interested in your thoughts as I always find your answers real and thought-provoking.

Carolyn Hax: Now I have performance anxiety. (Please, tell me my brain is huuuuge.)

Yes, you are being dishonest, because you're gnashing inside and that's going to come out somewhere, more ferociously, down the road. Besides, he's being a big fat baby. Tell him you'd rather play flag football, too, but he accepted this invitation and it would be rude to weasel out now. (Pls leave his mother/father/the wolves who raised him out of it.) If he gets mad at you and blames you for "making" him go, then it would be totally appropriate to call him on being a baby. Beats indulging his childishness and then resenting him for it.

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Nasty co-worker: Hi Carolyn;
I was a nasty co-worker. I've always had friends at work, but I'm a blunt, tell it like it is sort and some certainly don't like it. When in a year long stressful time at work though, I was abrasive, negative, and generally crappy to work with. I slowly started realizing how people started avoiding me... not asking me to lunch, simply walking away shaking their heads when I've made a remark. That sort of thing.

The best thing someone ever did -- someone who was a somewhat friendly colleague before the stressful time -- was tell me he wasn't going to put up with it any more. I made him sit me down and tell me about it. And forced myself to listen. Not fun to hear. I can't change my personality, but I did ask him to give me a nudge when I made remarks or had body language I thought were innocuous but were received in a different way. I slowly figured out what the heck I was doing. And I was shocked at how often I was doing it.

I've changed projects because that one was over and it would have taken a long time to regain trust anyway. I'm on another one now. I screw up sometimes, but correct mistakes quickly, apologize when I need to and think of better ways for next time. Much better working conditions. Funny though, I appreciate direct people, and still have a problem with what I considered to be pandering to people's emotions when all I want to do is get the job done. But to get along, do a job well, and avoid being toxic, the niceties must prevail. And somehow it makes people more cooperative. Imagine that.

If this person is toxic and you must work with her, consider taking her aside and telling her gently but firmly that her behaviour is unhelpful and negative in ways that she may not be aware of, and if she wants to understand how, she can ask. She may turn on you, but be polite and take the high road without being stomped on as Carolyn suggests. At least she won't be unaware when she is passed over, and if she remains clueless, then the eggshells were never worth it anyway. Too bad.

Carolyn Hax: Hi, and thanks for the great story and suggestion. It's a higher road than mine.

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Re: the Dump: I once had a therapist give me a great piece of advice. He said, "If you can't hang out with that person and his/her significant other, you're not really friends." It makes a good test.

Carolyn Hax: I like it, thanks.

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Re: Enthusiasm: Holy crap is Carolyn right!; I'm the same way you are, and I've noticed that while I'm not the foxiest of my bunch, the gentlemen always end up gravitating toward me than my friends who are more into playing it classy and mysterious.

Carolyn Hax: I was right? Holy crap. Have to admit, the mental image I have of women trying to be classy and mysterious just made me laugh out loud.

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Darnestown, Md.: Hi Carolyn,
I am in serious debt and some bill collectors are calling. I think I am in denial as well. I try to pay off bills but they are overwhelming. I want to clean this up so I can eventually have credit and buy a home but I feel snowed in. Where do I start? What do I do? I feel like any payments I make are worthless with the interest.

Carolyn Hax: Call one of those credit counseling services to help you set up a payment plan. They're not entirely independent--some if not all of them are nonprofit extensions of the credit companies you owe, offering this service just to improve their chances of getting paid--but that means they have the authority to change the terms of your various debts so you can make payments that mean something. I think www.nfcc.org is the nexus, but please get outside confirmation, like from your bank, your creditors, a financial planner. I actually researched this once but I don't trust my memory enough to claim this is reliable info. Good luck.

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Georgetown, Ky.: Am having twins on Monday (c-section) -- they are my first kids and I am scared but excited. Any advice?

Carolyn Hax: I'm not sure this is twin advice so much as big-life-event advice. Accept help when offered, except when you suspect it'll come at too high a price (ie, you'll be guilted for it later or you'll feel indebted to someone you don't like), and don't even try to control every little thing. You'll fail, for starters. Plus, you'll be much more relaxed if you're willing to take what comes, and that'll leave you open to all kinds of happy surprises. Last thing, dial your mind to "wow this is awesome" vs. "what were we thinking?"--it makes even the trying parts seem temporary and well worth the price in fatigue. Congratulations and good luck.

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FYI: I ate my spice cake with a spork, just for the hey of it.

Carolyn Hax: Mmm, spice cake.

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Palo Alto, Calif.: Strange blogging/socializing question.

I "know" a lot of people through their blogs who I don't know in real life, because their blogs are linked to the blogs of people I know. Chances are I will meet some of these people eventually, due to overlapping social circles and whatnot. Problem is that there are a lot of them I do not want to meet BECAUSE of their blogs! I mean things like totally repugnant political views, sustained cattiness, that kind of thing.

So when Friend X wants to introduce me to a third person who I already dislike, what should I do? Minimal social courtesies and avoid them? Warn Friend X in advance that I think the third person is a putz?

Carolyn Hax: Tell X you -suspect- the third person is a putz. Or, just know you don't "know" this person until you actually meet. Then all the old analog rules of jerk-avoidance apply.

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Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn!

Will the transcripts ever be updated again? Given the scheduling of your discussion late in the week, not having access to transcripts severely limits your audience.

Rob C (yes, still out here lurking)

washingtonpost.com: Hi there -- Carolyn's transcript page is updated promptly after each show. You may be looking at the OLD transcript page. Here's a link to the NEW transcript page.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for the chance to post this.

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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn --

Here's my situation. My mother and I are extremely close, which I am grateful for. However, her need to make me thinner is too much to handle. I will fully admit that I have 15 pounds to lose. I have no one to blame for those pounds than myself. But they are mine to lose and no one elses. Every conversation we have -- my weight comes up or whether or not I went to the gym or what I ate during the day or, most likely, all three. Every time I see her in person and food is involved she touches my wrist and says you don't really need that. Or we have to have the eating, weighing, exercising conversation all over again. It takes its toll. Plus, in return it only wants me to eat more out of spite (talk of cutting off nose to make face fatter).

I have been bribed, paid-off, etc. in return for weight loss -- but it doesn't work.

I am so sick of all of this. When I disappoint her in the weight arena all I get are sighs and lectures.

I have told her before that this needs to be a non-issue between us. And sometimes that works and sometimes it leads to: You will only feel better about yourself or I want what is best for you.

Suggestions for making this stop would be helpful. She is driving me crazy and it just makes me sad and feel like a drug addict when I stuff a cookie in my mouth.

Carolyn Hax: Tell her you refuse to talk about this subject with her because you feel pressured by it, and back it up by not talking about this subject with her, even if you have to leave the room or hang up the phone with, "Mom, I'm hanging up now." The pounds may be your responsibility but their source has very deep roots. Cut the roots. Oh, and when she touches! your! wrist! (I just tensed up physically on your behalf) say that you feel such gestures undermine your self-respect at a time when you need it most. Your attitude is great, you just owe yourself better execution. Draw the line and enforce it.

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Tampa, Fla.: Did the women seeking friend's coffee group discussed last week ever take place?

Carolyn Hax: Anyone?

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Gaithersburg, Md.: How do you resolve issues with your G/F that drive you nuts? I've tried being nice but all I get is a big fight or the cold shoulder for days on end. She refuses to discuss or resolve our issues. She doesn't have problems criticizing others but doesn't want to face hers.

Carolyn Hax: Say it's not this issue or that issue that's a problem, since everyone has something--it's the cold shoulders and fights that are the problem. Say you need to be able to express difficult things without getting punished for it. If she can't do it, you either keep a GF who refuses to communicate, or you make the clearest statement possible that you won't live that way. AKA, seeya. For her part, if she feels she's being over-criticized and that's why she's shutting down, then she's the one who should either speak up or leave. Whichever it is, you both should be viewing this situation as untenable if you ever hope to breathe freely within a relationship.

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Carolyn Hax: Gotta go, lunch is getting cold. Thanks everybody and type to you next-next week.

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