Tell Me About It

With Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 14, 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.

Submit your questions and comments any time before or during today's discussion. Other mail can be directed to Carolyn at

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.


Richmond, Va.: I think your answer in Sunday's column to the 17-year-old Internet dater was accurate, but too complicated. She said she had "become much more than friends" with the guy during their months of correspondence. What I say to her is: No, you haven't. You have to get to know someone before you can become friends with him. You have to meet someone before you can get to know him. And you have to actually spend time in his presence to meet him and get to know him. What you've done, instead, is form an emotional attachment to words and images on a screen. Not a person.

You're right, Carolyn, that this girl needs to get a life and stop spending hours on the Internet every night. But if it's done properly, there's nothing wrong with using those Internet dating sites to find people to meet. The thing is, it only works if you actually meet them. Not just because some people lie on the Internet. Also because, otherwise, you're only allowing yourself to see a small sliver of a person. How can you decide whether you like someone based on that small sliver?

By the way, I have an awesome, wonderful relationship with someone I met through two-and-a-half years ago. And I am also a huge fan of Carolyn Hax! But I've sometimes felt like your criticism of Internet dating is too broad. It's not a bad thing, as long as your expectations are realistic and you are careful about your safety.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for the post. I'm going to use it to clarify something I keep meaning (and forgetting) to address. I make a big distinction between meeting on the Internet and meeting on an Internet dating site. The former says (to me at least) chat rooms, long-distance, many months of e-mailing alone and sometimes phone contact, many unknowns. The dating sites just say personal ads, but electronic. They're most often local and people tend to meet in person quickly. Both require precautions, obviously, but so does regular dating.

Anyway, as you probably know, I'm no fan of personal ads (a position tempered somewhat but not entirely by their growing popularity), but I make zero disctinction between print and online. Hope that explains better my "criticism of Internet dating."


Clarendon, Va.: I am a 24-year old girl who has been in a relationship for 3 years. I really love him, and he is super sweet to me. Here is my problem: I don't like spending time alone with him. The weekend rolls around and I want to be with him and a big group of people. Going to the movies, out to dinner, etc. only sounds appealing if its with a group of us. Do you think there is more going on here?

Carolyn Hax: Yup.


Just curious in the Midwest: I was chatting with a single friend who lives in Manhattan who tells me it is routine for a woman to end an unpromising date by excusing herself to the bathroom and never returning to the table. I was appalled. Have things really changed so much since I was "out there?" It's been over 20 years since I dated anyone, but this seems incredibly rude and hurtful to me. Is this really what's being done now? My friend dates a lot and says that all of her friends have done this.

Carolyn Hax: Your friend and her friends are incredibly rude and hurtful.


Anywhere: Carolyn - Please help!

My sister moved back to the area to be with her boyfriend. They had been dating for four years. And as you would have it, she pressed him for a commitment (which was overdue) and he bailed! She is devestated. She is soooo down on herself, calls herself a loser all the time, says no one will ever love her, etc. I try to tell her that she should be glad to be rid of him (so many things wrong with this guy), have her get angry at him so it would empower her. I try to take her out, but she says she's not ready. I've asked if she wants to go talk to someone, she doesn't want to do that. I listen, hell I've cried just as much as she has. I don't know what else to do to help her. She is temporarily living with me and my husband so on one hand, her seeing a good relationship makes her mad and upset, etc. I think its good for her to witness it since her relationship with the guy was not good. There is so much emotion going on in my house I don't know what to do. Do you have any suggestions of how to get her though this horrible time in her life? With the holidays coming, its going to be bad for the next 2 months at least.


P.S. The guy is a good friend of my husband. Yes, this is very messy!

Carolyn Hax: First of all, there's a really good chance she's depressed. Show her and have her find out for herself. The "Please go," "I don't want to" dance isn't emphatic enough.

Second, I disagree that making her angry would be empowering. Often, dwelling on how bad the relationship was will only make a person feel like more of an idiot--both for getting involved with a jerk in the first place, and for getting dumped by said jerk. Allowing her to think she isn't even good enough for a jerk feeds right into the "no one will ever love me" mind set.

Third: Do you have any stretches of time in common? Like, two or three hours on a Saturday? Find a volunteer gig you can both take on, and drag her there. This will not only get her out, but it'll help get her out of her head, which it sounds like she most badly needs. Good luck.


Anytown, Anywhere -- Part 2: In the October 24th online chat, I told you about my situation (pregnant, and not wanting my child to be exposed to my mom's husband, who molested me). You advised me to definitely protect my child. I just wanted to give you an update:

Before I had a chance to visit my mother, she called me to ask when would be a good time for her and her husband to drop by. Pardon me?! I told her I didn't want him in my house, I didn't want to see him again, and I didn't want him to be a part of my child's life. She said she hoped I could "forgive" and she thought he had "changed" because they had discussed what he had done. I tried to tell her that based on research, usually child molesters do not change. The few who perhaps do reform are ones who have admitted the truth to themselves and others, sought therapy willingly, and avoid situations with children. He has done none of these things. We basically ended the conversation at a dead-lock. I told her I wanted her to be a part of my child's life, but he couldn't; and she hopes I will change my mind (even when I said I wouldn't, she still hopes for it). Because she's in a complete state of denial and I just don't want to bend, it looks like this problem will not be resolved, and will instead be an ongoing situation for a long, long time.

Thank you so much for providing me with unbiased advice and support! I really appreciate it.

Carolyn Hax: You're welcome--you got a real peanut outpouring, too, I noticed after the chat was over. Everyone was behind you in a forum where agreement is rare.

And yay to you for holding your ground. Sorry your mom doesn't get it.


East Coast: Dear Carolyn,
Love your column. This is the type of question I'd never ask Dear Abby or Miss Manners...

Live in a group house. House had party. One person, who'd been invited by a housemate, got very drunk and stayed on couch in living room. No problem with that. Problem is that he also used the living room to relieve himself!

To make long story shorter, he called housemate next day to thank her for party, but claimed to have no recollection of said incident when it was mentioned.

Now we seem to have permanent smell in room. If we need to replace couch or rug, I feel it shouldn't be coming out of our pockets. Question is: what can/should we request of this person and/or of housemate who invited him?


Carolyn Hax: Well, thanks, I'm touched.

Yes to billing the guest, no to billing the housemate who invited him, unless s/he knew beforehand that this guest had a lavatory-recognition disability.

Though, FWIW, if it were my couch/rug I'd probably ask him only to pitch in a share, or nothing at all, depending on how wild the party was. When the whole house opens itself to a stampede, the whole house assumes damage liability.

Dog owner tip: Try white vinegar, and, if that doesn't work, try Nature's Miracle (but test a hidden spot first; it can strip some dyes).


Arlington, Va.: Carolyn, I read your column in Sunday's Post about the girl in college wanting to meet someone online in person and highly disagree with your answer. I have met numerous women online in person, going back to high school and currently. You are correct in meeting in a public place, but I don't agree with both parties bringing friends along. In my opinion, that puts everyone in a uncomfortable position. I also thought that this girl have been protected growing up and didn't meet anyone, after all, she said she was 17 and in college already, sounded to me the parents may have pushed her to get through school and didn't let her have a normal teenage life. I seriously doubt a guy would talk for months and months and not be who he claims he is online, guys simply don't have that kind of patience. They have done the right things, talked on the phone and swapped pictures and took their time. I think your bias of meeting people online in person got to you.

Carolyn Hax: I think your ignorance has gotten to you. An Internet predator I read about in the newspaper worked his target (a teenage girl) for months. Before he set up a meeting and killed her. It is my understanding that his patience was not an unusual MO.

I don't give half a s*** whether people are "uncomfortable." Anyone who's bona fide will put up with it.

And this girl's being 17 in college means she was "pushed"? Jumped to any massive conclusions lately? I was 17 in college and had the full high-school menu--boyfriends, parties, sports. It just meant I started school young.


Chicago, Ill.: Hi Carolyn!
I have a should-I-be-mad-at-my-boyfriend question. (Guess I'm not too self-confident with my emotions, huh?)

Anyway, we live 1,000 miles apart and see each other about once a month. He is coming to visit me tonight, and we've been planning this weekend for some time now. Tonight he casually mentions that one his friends invited himself to come along, and my boyfriend didn't even object! I'm just a little (selfishly) peeved because now my bf's attention will be divided between spending time with me and trying to entertain his friend. Am I overreacting? (It's been known to happen, btw.) Thanks, and I hope P & J are fat and happy.

Carolyn Hax: I have a you-should-be-talking-to-your-boyfriend answer. Two things feed directly into overreacting: 1. going off on someone emotionally and 2. doubting your emotions and not responding at all. 1 leads to 2 leads to 1 leads to 2 ... leads to insecurity and timidity in approaching one's BF. And you want to nip that in the bud.

Your boyfriend's decision to include his friend hurt your feelings. So say to him, now, calmly, something along the lines of, "Including your friend makes me feel like our being together tonight is more important to me than it is to you." Then, listen to what he has to say. The listening part is equally as important as the saying part.

If he all he says is, fine, he'll call off the friend, you probably have more talking to do. Because now it's not so much whether the friend comes or not, as it is whether you and your BF are ... er ... "in the same place." (Bleah, sorry, can't do better at the moment.) He could be losing interest, or he could just have done a guyish thing and thought hey, more the merrier, without really thinking.

Or you could just be dating long-distance.


Blurgh. Just Blurgh.: Carolyn --

Thanks for taking these messages people send. I've got a stupid problem, as in, I'm feeling really stupid. I have just managed to trample my best friend's feelings, and I'm trying to figure out what to do about it, if anything.

I mentioned an upcoming party being thrown by a mutual friend, assuming he was going. Turns out he hadn't even heard about it, much less been invited. He was obviously hurt by this. Very, very obviously. (This happened a few days ago, so for all I know, he might have decided it's no big deal, but I'm the jerk who did this, so I won't let myself take that luxury.)

As I see it, the options that will cause the least harm seem to be either talking to the host and asking him to add my friend (his friend, too) to the guest list (there is limited room in the house), or to talk to my friend about a zillion other subjects and never, ever bring this one up again. Not attending the party is not an option, because I already promised the host that I'd help set things up.

Who cares if I didn't hurt him on purpose? I still hurt him.


Carolyn Hax: Ho boy, I think you're being way too hard on yourself. You didn't hurt the guy, the party-thrower did. Unless you had some way of knowing your friend wasn't invited, which you obviously didn't, you would have mentioned it at some point in some way.

OR! Getting caught up in the drama here ... in the unlikely event that you didn't, then went to the party and saw he wasn't included, you'd be agonizing about either telling him and making him feel left out or not telling him and making yourself feel like a liar.

So I think we all should be relieved it came out this way, hard as it was for you both. But I think we can all say from experience (okay, I can) that a non-invitation, even a painful public one, is survivable. If you feel the need to do something more, say, "I still feel like such a jerk about this party thing."


Rockville, Md.: Live in apt. with 2 friends. One friend decides to move to LA for a new experience, so we get another friend to move into her bedroom. Problem is, bills are coming in for when she lived here (water, elecricity, gas, cable,etc). Obviously we feel she is still responsible for her share. LA friend's phone conveniently loses signal when we explain to her she owes us money. LA friend has history of ditching responsibilities. Any advice for getting the $ she owes us?

Carolyn Hax: Photocopy bills, circle total, write in her share underneath, mail to LA, hope for best, persist as needed. I'm assuming she didn't pitch in toward the security deposit?


Baltimore, Md.: Hi Carolyn,
Obviously I love the chats, or I wouldn't be here. I recently (two months ago) got out of something that was intense and flamed out badly. I've always been a "right back on the horse," kind of woman, and I get a lot of offers, so I tried going out with new men, a couple of times, after about a month. It didn't work either time, though they were both perfectly wonderful and eliglible. I realized: I'm not ready to be out there.

One of these guys was pretty cool, and accepted the offer of friendship. One guy was slightly hostile suggesting that if I'm not ready to go out, I shouldn't be accepting. Now some other man is interested, I told him I'm not, and he won't leave it alone. What's the appropriate response? I'm not attracted to you sounds harsh and wouldn't, necessarily, be true. I just got out of something blah, blah, sounds trite. And I don't think it's anyone's business. Accept, you know, you and the peanut gallery. I know there are other options, but why doesn't no thank you seem to be working?

Carolyn Hax: Thank you, though the nastygram society would dispute your "obviously."

How bout, "If you can't respect my request to be friends-only, this isn't going anywhere." Because if he can't respect your request to keep things friends-only, this shouldn't be going anywhere. A good guy either accepts the friendship on the given terms or he moves on (without the parting slam.)


Washington, D.C.: What do you do about a friend who tells you over e-mail two months later that she is mad about something you said, but which she does not detail? She's mad enough not to return my phone call about getting engaged and mad enough to be "not speaking" to me, but didn't reply when I wrote her back to apologize? We've been close for about 10 years, and this is how it ends? I've tried calling her and she's not returning calls.

Other friends have thought she was a little nuts in the past, but she's always been fine with me. Is it just my turn to be attacked? I don't even know what I did.

Carolyn Hax: Sounds like it's your turn. It also sounds like you already knew on some level that she was difficult, or else why would you have apologized before you even found out what you said?


Outside the Beltway: Hi Carolyn -- Help! I am happily married to an awesome woman. We've been married for five years, we're planning a family, we're best friends, and I can't imagine my life without her. Here's the catch: I have a schoolboy crush on a woman in my office. She's my age, single, and easy to talk to. This woman and I work closely together on a project, in a fairly small office, so there's no way I can avoid seeing her.

Am I weird? Is it abnormal to have crushes, even though you're married? And before you ask, yes, I really am sure that I'm happily married! But I find myself thinking of this co-worker at odd hours and wondering what it would be like to kiss her. Is this just an adolescent crush gone bad? Should I be worried? I don't have any intention of acting on the crush, and the woman is fully aware, and very respectful, of my married status.

Thanks for any help you can offer, Carolyn!

Carolyn Hax: Totally normal--marriage doesn't switch off the senses. Just endure, stay true, stay at arm's length as possible, and it'll burn out (or the project will mercifully end).


Re: ex-naked hippie guy: Carolyn,

I've been very impressed with your advice up to this point, but as a former hippie co-op member turned law student (and still very left), I must object that your judgment seems kind of unfair. From what in her letter do you get the sense that he's "overboard" and just following the herd? That might be true, but it sounds like youre making a preconceived judgment about a lifestyle choice based on very little information. I was, and am, neither overboard nor extreme nor overly susceptible to peer pressure, and do not feel that you can make that kind of assumption just because someone does not follow the societally accepted route.

Carolyn Hax: You swung left and stayed there. Ex-naked hippie guy went wide left, then wide right. That makes him not only completely different from you, but also a very bad place kicker.


Re: Party non-invitee: I think it would be even worse if the person talked to the host/hostess and asked him/her to invite the excluded friend to the party after the fact. Who wants a pity invite anyway? The damage is done; if this exclud-ee has any sort of self-confidence, he or she will feel hurt for a brief instant and move on. No need to dwell on the problem or try to pretend it never happened, either.

Carolyn Hax: Right-o, thanks.


DC Cubicle: Hey Carolyn and peanuts. Wow, the holiday seasonal blues have really started in this chat.

Any plans for Turkey Day, Carolyn?

Carolyn Hax: Yes! Good ones, too. Seeing family I haven't seen in a while. Thanks for the direction change.


Malignant New Mom: I just had 2 beautiful twin babies... they are five weeks old and adorable and wonderful.

Unfortunately, yesterday, I was diagnosed with a recurrent breast cancer after eight years of remission. I'm facing a mastectomy in about 2-3 weeks.

The support of friends is vital, I know, because I've been through this before. But I am in the midst of such a joyful time in my life -- I really want people to focus on that, support me in my surgery and any other follow up treatments, but keep focused on the wonderful man in my life and the beautiful babies we have.

Any suggestions on how to break this news to people in my life (most of whom I didn't know the first go-round) in such a way that I can help them focus on the positive, support me in the meantime... without making them think that I am in denial? I've done this once. I know what it's all about -- I don't need to relive the painful emotions again. I want to have my surgery and get back to my beautiful babies... and I am hoping most everyone else can do the same.

Carolyn Hax: How 'bout this: "I am in the midst of such a joyful time in my life -- I really want people to focus on that, support me in my surgery and any other follow up treatments, but keep focused on the wonderful man in my life and the beautiful babies we have." Perfectly said.

Take care, good luck, congratulations--and, cryptic ending, I might have more for you if you e-mail me directly:


Chicago, Ill.: I have a bridesmaid situation. In short, I have known this potential bridesmaid for six years. Ever since I began to date my now fiance two years ago, she has really cooled our relationship. She's passive-aggressively had outbursts of jealousy, which I have passive-aggressively ignored. I selfishly don't want her to be a bridesmaid because I don't want any outbursts. On the other hand, I am one of her two closest friends and I'm afraid I would really hurt her feelings by not including her. And, I have professional help taking care of all the greeter, guest book attendent-type wedding jobs. Please advise.

Carolyn Hax: Stop ignoring, start dealing.


Re: Non-invited party guests:: What if you invite people to a party, telling them it is a closed invite, then they tell OTHERS about it. You only know they told others about it become of of the 'others' said something to you about the party openly in front of additional 'others' who were also not invited. Should you expect the 'other' non-invited person to 'rat out' the invitee who told them about it in the first place?

I don't think I ever want to hold a private party again!; Geezy peezy!; Someone always gets their feelings hurt!;

Carolyn Hax: Oh brother.

1. If everyone invited everybody s/he knew to every party, things would get a tad crowded and someone would probably pee on the couch.

2. If everyone accepted item 1, the incidence of hurt feelings over non-invitations would drop precipitously.

3. If people accomplished item 2a, they would know to resist the urge to yap about upcoming parties, and therefore greatly assist 2b.


Washington, D.C.: Hi!

I have just recently become involved with somebody new. It's been great - going on for about a month and making me really, really happy. Then, two days ago, a person who I had been interested in earlier asked me on a date. While the biggest struggle is clearly an internal one - that of reconciling the fact that I am in a somewhat committed relationship with somebody I really like with my desire to explore this new option - the immediate issue is how to address the invitation. How can I say no without hurting his feelings? How can I put him on a back burner without him feeling like he is there? Is that a terrible thing to do? Does my desire to put the date on a back burner say I really shouldn't be in the other relationship?

Whew, sorry if that was confusing. Next time I'll think of pseudonyms.

Carolyn Hax: No, I followed. As for the hurt feelings, they're part of the deal. You don't want to go out with him, you say no, he lives.

And you have to say no, because you can't "back-burner" someone. It's not only unfair to both guys, it's also not feasible. I mean, he has no say in what he does while you test out your new relationship? You let things run their course with the new guy, and if and when you're ever free to call the old guy, call him. Maybe he'll be free too, maybe not. A chance you have to take.

That is, unless you don't want to turn the old guy away. I don't think you can expect your feelings for him to have disappeared when you've been with this other person only a month, so don't beat yourself up for being multiply curious. But if these old feelings start overpowering the new ones, that's when you let the new guy go and take your chances with the old one. You risk losing them both either way, no avoiding it.

In case you're wondering--the only reason I haven't suggested dating both is that it sounds like you're clearly exclusive and googly already with the new guy, in which case it wouldn't be realistic to jump in with an, oh, by the way ...


Hey: How long do these chats run?

Carolyn Hax: Forever.


Extreme ignorance here... : Can you explain passive-aggressive? I hear it all the time to describe (mostly women) but don't know what it is. Really.

Carolyn Hax: It describes people who try to get their way without ever being direct. For e.g., say I want you to take out the garbage.

Direct: "Would you please take out the garbage?"

P-A: "Ohh, my back is killing me from taking out the garbage the past 17 weeks in a row."


Detroit, Mich.: Married for a year. Together for three. Really rough first year (unemployment, health issues, etc). Through it all, we've become very good friends and problem-solvers, but not attracted to each other at all. This is mutual BTW. Can you stay married to your best friend, but not lover? Thanks. (online only please. He reads your column in the paper)

Carolyn Hax: Of course you "can"--the question is really whether you both want to. Some people love it that way, some people see it as hell. This is where it's both ideal and torturous that the feelings are mutual and you communicate well. Ideal because you can talk about it, torturous because, if you do split, you have no villain to blame.

Any chance the rough year is still affecting your sex drives, and not a lack of attraction?


Dallas, Tex.: Is it normal for a guy to claim that you are the best girlfriend he has ever had, spend all the time with you, send you beautiful flowers at work, and then say that he just wants to be friends?

Is this the new break up routine, or am I just missing something?

Carolyn Hax: Sounds like he's missing something, but I have too little to go on. Could just be that he committed too emphatically too soon and his feelings faded. I hope for your sake (actually, no--his) that he isn't one of those grew-to-like-you-too-much-to-sleep-with-you types.


College Town, USA: I like to spend the night at my boyfriend's apartment sometimes (usually on weekends), even though I share an apartment with a really nice girl who I have known for about a year. The thing is, I feel like it offends her morality or something when I do this, even though I don't make a big deal out of it. When I come home in the morning, she sometimes makes a somewhat snide remark about me not being there, although it's not bad enough to make me really mad. But anyway, should I address her anger or is it just something I should continue to ignore?

Carolyn Hax: If it's bugging you, say something.

Of course, if it's bugging her, she should say something; the snotty aside doesn't cut it.

When you do speak up, just make sure you don't put words into her mouth. I can think of a bunch of reasons for her to feel snippy that have nothing to do with morality. Missing you, hating your boyfriend, having her own issues with guys ...


Denver, Colo.: What do you with people who complain constantly about their lives, but never actually do anything to help themselves? I have a friend who is always asking for advice about some problem, and then when we suggest possible solutions to her, she always has excuses why they won't work or she can't do them.

How do you tell someone to just shut up and quit whining if they're not going to bother to help themselves?

Carolyn Hax: Find a nicer way to say that, and you're there. Or, get out of advice and into the Yoda business. "Don't dwell, do," whenever she asks for your help. Then change the subject. Be warm, friendly, etc, just stop rewarding her complaints with extra attention.


My Bad: My best friend (married) is unexpectedly pregnant and not happy about it. She has decided to keep the baby but has continuously complained about how "I didn't ever want to be in this situation." She's going into her fourth month and is still griping about everything to me. I lost my temper with her yesterday and said "you're in your 30's, you're married and you had sex with your husband without the benefit of birth control. What did you think might happen?" Now she's not talking to me.

I just don't see how if someone chooses to not use birth control (they have been not using birth control for over a year now), how they can possibly gripe so much when they get knocked up?! Anyway, I've apologized via e-mail (won't take my calls). What should I do now?

Carolyn Hax: Nothing. You had a point, you made it, and it sounds like you were right. In fact, I hope you apologized only for the delivery, and not the message itself. I know she's your best friend and the silence must hurt, but it's her turn to deal.


For Baltimore: She says she's not interested, guy won't leave it alone. Take it from me, a guy, cut this loser off.

Women, when the last time I checked were still considered to be persons, do not owe it to ANY guy to put up with disrespectful behavior. If you say "no thanks not interested" and get anything other than, "OK, sorry 'bout that" you are dealing with a pushy moron at best -and perhaps someone dangerous].

Carolyn Hax: Great, thanks.


Anti-p.a. everywhere and anywhere: Wait!; It's not just women who do that vile passive-aggressive thing (for a male example, please see my ex-husband. But wait, he learned it from the P.A. Queen, his mom!;). Why do people think that this type of behavior is gonna get them what they want? It's so undercurrently hostile all you want to do is Directly Hit The A..Hat!;!;!;

Carolyn Hax: Someone posted a different definition of p-a, so I looked it up ... and got a third one: "being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive passive way." So, looks like I was too broad in my definition. New e.g., your MIL (or FIL!) hates you:

Direct: "."

P-A: Aside to son, "Is she okay? She looks like she's put on some weight."


Re: "Cryptic Ending": Carolyn: Are you sick? I hope not...

Carolyn Hax: Nope, thanks. Just realized I implied that, and didn't mean to. Sorry.


Washington D.C.: How soon is too soon to call a boyfriend who broke up with you two weeks ago?

Carolyn Hax: I like the sound of "ever." Why are you calling him, and why is he not calling you?


Boston, Mass.: I'm a 25 year old female and one of my male friends has been dating this girl for about 7 months. Objectively, she seems nice enough, but she alternates between being very friendly to me and avoiding me completely, or snapping at me for no apparent reason, or huffing off after I've done something wrong, though usually no one can figure out why it was wrong. There seems to be no pattern to how she will behave. She treats all his friends like this, but all agree that I get the brunt. I asked the girlfriend what gives, and she claimed nothing, she likes me fine, but the behavior has continued. I brought it up with the boyfriend--he says she's just shy. Fine, but if that's her brand of "shy" I just can't deal with it. When I'm around her I'm always on guard, wondering if she'll be nice or if I'm offending her. I asked mutual friends and was told that she's jealous of me since I'm quite close with the guy. She really has no cause to be jealous, if she is. I'm not flirty with him, I always invite her to things when I invite him, and I'm not after this guy. I have no clue how to behave now. It's a chore being around someone who treats me like that. I guess I could drop both of them, but then I lose my friend along with his girlfriend. I'm at a loss. What do I do?

Carolyn Hax: Ride it out. Don't treat her in any special way, just respect that she's his girlfriend and otherwise treat her as you would any friend/acquaintance. As long as you don't show disrespect or provoke her, the burden's on her to get over herself. For your friend's sake and for the sake of your friendship, count to 20 (overandoverandover) till she does. Or till he gets sick of it and flees.


For Baltimore: How do we know that last poster was a Guy?

Carolyn Hax: How do you know I'm not?


Maryland Suburbs: Holiday woes: Husband has volunteered to host his family for Thanksgiving. His mother and sister aren't speaking, so his parents won't come, so it isn't even his whole family. He says he'll "help" with preparation (which means he'll hover around behind me and get in my way, but he won't actually take any responsibility for the event). Meanwhile, I'm disappointed because my big, happy family, who are all always speaking to each other, will be having a fun, happy holiday dinner together, without me for only the second time in my life. Any advice on how to deal with this?

Carolyn Hax: Far be it from me to align myself with a kitchen obstacle, but it sounds like your husband could use some warmth right now in dealing with his less-than-warm family situation. Doesn't his setup suck more than your missing your family? Yours = one day. His = ongoing.

As for the cooking thing, don't take out your anger at him by being a martyr. Sit down, figure out the menu with him, ask him what he'd like to be responsible for, hand him recipes. He can start the weekend before and freeze stuff, or, if he's totally helpless, he can grocery shop, make a salad, set and clear the table, wash dishes ... I wouldn't call it holiday woes so much as marriage 101.


Burke, Va.: Nick's comic today was great! Please let him know.

Carolyn Hax: Okay! Thanks.

I'm outta here, tortured Liz enough. Thanks everybody and type to you next Friday.


passive aggressive: hi

would you say passive aggressive is a guy who decided he doesn't want to date you anymore, but instead of being up front about it, just became unreliable, a tad dishonest about most things, say, whereabouts and goings-on (all in the name of 'not hurting your feelings) and incrementally more of a jerk in the hopes that you would do something about it?

what if you work with said person and they are nice to you when they want to be, and dismissive when they don't - would that be passive aggressive?

Carolyn Hax: First example is textbook-perfect.


re Wash DC ex BF: Maybe he's not calling her because he wants to give her space!; I know that my ex tried to call me post break-up and be 'friends' but it made it way harder on me. If she wants to talk to him, call. why keep score?

Carolyn Hax: If she has something to say, I agree. But the have-I-waited-long-enough? angle made me suspect otherwise. Maybe unfairly, thanks.


More Definitions: Passive-aggressive can also be (and is, in fact, more commonly) behavioral, as in the husband who always forgets to pick up the bread and milk from the store or never folds the laundry correctly as a form of rebellion.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, that sounds like what it's supposed to be, and a slightly different pop-cultural definition has morphed from that. Thanks.


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