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With Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 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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New York, N.Y.: Hey Carolyn--Bacon Pants for all! I was literally writing a question to you last night when I realized exactly what you were going to say and followed "your" advice! Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: You sent me shoes? Thank -you.-

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Carolyn Hax: Ack--I just realized I forgot to ask my Pops for the 2003 "Night Before Christmas." Hope he's home ...

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Pew Loogie Guy: Hi Carolyn and Holiday chatters, pew loogie guy here.

I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Holidays and ask that they be careful during this heavy flu season and remember...I got your back !;

Carolyn Hax: I regret having just eaten lunch, but nicely done.

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New York, N.Y.: So what are you getting the babies for Christmas? What are the babies getting for YOU?

Carolyn Hax: Nothing, and ... nothing! They are babies. They can make a gleeful afternoon of a stack of measuring cups. I am trying to get this message out to friends and family, and failing soundly so far.

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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn -- I trust your opinion. Is it obnoxious to send everyone you know a Christmas card with a picture of your kids in Santa hats, reindeer antlers, etc.? I swore I'd never be one of those parents but I can't help myself. How about if it's your pets? How do these compare on the obnoxiousness scale to a photocopy "newsletter" with all your years accomplishments and/or ailments?
- Trying to Rein it in

Carolyn Hax: I hope it's not obnoxious, I love picture cards. We're all getting old, often without each other, so it's one small way to share the ride. One thing I wish--that more parents would get in on full-family pix instead of just sending the kids. I want to see my friends. But I say this planning a kids-only pic this year. The full-fam shots we took were godawful.

As for the newsletter, I actually don't mind those as much as I'm apparently supposed to, either--but (beeeg but) only when the writer has a sense of humor, as well as the nerve to report, vs. merely brag.

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Home alone for the Holiday: Hey Hax. I'd appreciate any thoughts you have on this matter.

Been dating this great guy for a little over a year. We live in the southwest, but both of us grew up in the east. Usually I try and make it home for Xmas, but this year I plan on traveling a short distance to spend a couple days with my aunt and her family. I'd love for the bf to come with -- but he really doesn't want to. Which I can understand -- he doesn't want to travel for the holiday and he says it would be a little uncomfortable being around my family. (He has met them before, but has never visited them at their home. I know they would love to have him -- my family is very welcoming and have always treated my friends with love.)

So I say I understand his point of view -- but why am I ticked off inside? When we discussed it, he said the only reason for going would be me and it wouldn't be a big deal if we spent a couple days apart. But he has a job which takes him away from town about 50 percent of the time, so we spend a couple days apart quite often. He also says I'm not compromising because I refuse to stay in town and spend the holiday with him.

I'm kind of hurt he doesn't want to get to know my family better and that he's perfectly willing to spend Christmas alone in order to avoid that interaction. He says his not going is not a reflection of his feelings for me. I can't help but think that it sort of is, despite what he tells me.

Carolyn, make me feel better: send me a symbolic slap and tell me I'm overreacting. I'm starting to worry that our values regarding family and special occasions are completely different and - given our ages -- completely irreconcilible.

FWIW, I am in my mid-20s, he is in his early 30s and there is no pressure to marry, live together, etc. I just want to spend the holiday with him.

Carolyn Hax: Thoughts: that "he said the only reason for going would be me" is at the root of why you're upset, because it hurts that making you happy isn't reason enough, which, if true, is something he needs to hear ...

... and that two more days traveling to be with your not-immediate family just for the sake of being with family for xmas isn't his idea of a vacation, which is something you need to try to appreciate objectively before you take his decision too personally. I know "alone on Christmas" sounds like a drastic move on his part, but to some people, a little solitude, compared with two days of relative strangers, is like an unopened box of truffles.

Before you go off on him about family values and special occasions, make sure you've given recent consideration to how important they are to -you.- Eg, do you fully intend to travel for every holiday for the rest of your adult life, or will there be some point at which you foresee being ready to be the center of your own holidays? And isn't it possible he has already, understandably, reached that point himself?

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Christmas accessories: I am wearing Christmas tree earrings, a nutcracker turtleneck, and Christmas carol socks. I do this because I am too rushed/lazy/disorganized to decorate the house until about the week before Christmas. Am I so very wrong?

BTW, I am a female.

Carolyn Hax: It won't send you to one of the lower circles of Hell, but if the socks actually sing carols, then you are technically making others pay for your sloth.

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St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Carolyn,

How can I tactfully tell my stepdad that I do not want him to get me anything for Christmas? I also do not want to get anything for him. I would just as soon skip the gift exchange with him. It was apparent from what happened last year that he had no idea what to get for me. There was not much thought or effort put forth. Can't we just leave well enough alone?

Carolyn Hax: Depends. Which does more for the greater cosmic good, saying "Don't buy me gifts any more," or pasting a smile on once a year to accept a gift you don't want?

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Washington, D.C.: This is going to be my first Christmas without my husband since we got engaged. Part of me is excited, because it will be my first Christmas in as many years with the rest of my family -- and a brand-spanking-new baby niece -- but the rest of me is really, really miserable about it. For, you see, husband is going to prison, and this won't exactly be the only Christmas or holiday we'll be apart.

I know life is all about the bittersweet dichotomies (or at least, that's what a degree in literature would have me believe ...).

But, what to do with the really happy and the really crappy colliding, and at Xmas to boot?

I'm thinking "Occasional Delicious Hot Buttered Rums And More Frequent Hanging-Outs, Both With People Who Understand."

Carolyn Hax: I'm not sure if I have nothing to add to a perfectly good coping approach, or am just speechless.

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Holiday Wishlists: Carolyn,

What do you think of Holiday Wishlists that some Web sites have set up (Amazon and Victoria's Secret, to name a few)? I know you're not a big fan of registries for weddings and baby showers, but I think this is a great way to get someone something you know they'll really want. Of course, I think it's tacky to just send it out to all your friends, but a couple of friends and I agree to exchange these wishlists every year. I'd never dream of sending my list to family or acquaintances that I exchange gifts with, unless they specifically ask if I have a wishlist with one of these sites. So what say you -- acceptable or heinous?

Carolyn Hax: Wait, you don't have my wedding- and shower-registry opinion quite straight. I believe in them among consenting parties--meaning, they're very convenient when made available to those who ask for them specifically, but they cross over into very rude when they get shoved in everyone's faces (or include nothing but a pile of extravagant things). But if you and your friends agree amongst yourselves to exchange them, I say yee haw.

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Bacon pants?: OK, I've been a reader for a long time now, but I just have no clue what the reference to bacon pants is. Please clue in the clueless amongst us!;

Carolyn Hax: A few years back, a helpful reader from Texas (right? Or did it just sound like a Texan thing to say?) suggested that a certain obnoxious prior poster needed to be sent swimming in shark-infested waters wearing the clothing in question. The gallery approved.

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Washington, D.C: My parents are coming to visit me for Christmas. But ALL I want to do when I'm around them is drink. That's not the only problem -- they're very strict Mormon! What should I do?

Carolyn Hax: Do what every grown child should when feeling compelled to drink in the presence of visiting parents: don't. At least not to excess. There's bad (parents in house), and there's worse (hangover while parents in house). Two words--long walks.

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Bacon Pants: Definitely Texas.

He also said "At Dusk" which is important.

Carolyn Hax: Crucial. I should be slapped. Thanks.

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No pew loogies here: Does anyone else enjoy going to Christmas Eve mass slightly drunk? Or is this something that only I do?

Carolyn Hax: What, go or enjoy it? Since I do neither, I'll march it by the review stand.

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Re: St. Paul: "Which does more for the greater cosmic good, saying "Don't buy me gifts any more," or pasting a smile on once a year to accept a gift you don't want?"

For years my mom used Christmas as a way to beat me over the head for not being the kind of daughter she wanted. I'm not a "girlie" girl, never liked wearing dresses or makeup, hated the whole feminine frippery-and-cosmetic thing. I like wearing blue jeans, a tee shirt, and playing with my horse.

Every Christmas my mom would buy me some kind of ultra-feminine article of clothing. And every year I would paste on the smile, politely thank her and resign myself to consigning the clothing to my closet.

Finally realized I was tired of being guilted for not being the kind of daughter she'd always wanted. Gave all the unworn fripperies to Goodwill and told my mom to quit buying things like that.

Carolyn, sometimes a Christmas gift is more than just a gift -- it's a stick of guilt that the giver uses for a beating, or a reminder that the giver just doesn't care enough to see us as a person.

Carolyn Hax: Good point. If that's the case with the stepfather, your version applies. Thanks. It just looked like a standard bad-gift thing to me.

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Best christmas eve thwapping ever!;: Several years ago, while home visiting my family for Christmas in Ohio, we went to the midnight service at our church. At the end of the service, the lights are extinguished and we all sing some carols by candlelight that we each hold. It's a lovely thing, and part of the season I look forward to. To my horror, I looked up from my hymnal to watch my father violently thwapping the helmet-haired woman in the pew ahead of us upside the head. Apparently the alcohol in her hairspray caught fire on her candle, and dear old dad used his bare hands to put it out. Now each year as we get ready for church, my dad comes up to the bathroom and reminds me not to create a firehazard.

Happy holidays, all!;

Carolyn Hax: Remind him, too, to wear his oven mitts.

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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn -

I am getting married in about four months. Most of the details are set, and I am very excited about being married.

Here is my conundrum: although I have a reputation in my family (but not elsewhere) for being high-strung, I have done my best not to be Bridezilla. Bridesmaids can pick out their own dresses as long as the color matches; I am not anal retentive about flowers; my parents are paying for the whole thing so I say they get to call the shots. So far, no one has shed a single tear (as far as I know) in stress about the wedding.

I am getting a little sensitive about -- well, my sensitivity. My mother keeps making jokes about how far away from me she wants to be on my wedding day, in anticipation that I'll be a wreck. My sister and father guffaw and chime in. Despite my efforts to remain calm, it's getting tough to keep on a smile when I am the butt of everyone's jokes. Any advice as to zen chants or witty retorts to help me defend myself against this?

Carolyn Hax: Tell them there's a 100 bucks in it, cash money, on your wedding day for any one of them who manages to give you a sustained benefit of the doubt from now until vow day. Pay up for real if they do.

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Midnight Mass : Depends on what the questioner means by "slightly drunk." If he had a glass of wine with dinner, OK. If he's bleary eyed and teetering, please stay home. He could not be said to be "present" for the service, and will be obnoxious for those around him. (I'm using "he" generically here, but would be willing to bet it's a he.)

Carolyn Hax: 1. I didn't see a gender peeking through, at all. 2. I think "slightly" safely takes the teetering possibility off the table.

So I'll put you down as a "no."

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Visiting Mormon Parents: Mine always get a hotel...makes a huge difference.

Carolyn Hax: Indeedy. I've become a hotel-staying guest myself. It's like I've crossed over to the other side, and I'm never ever going back.

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Drunk at Christmas Eve Mass: I should have been drunk the year we went to a local church and the pastor (who reminded me of Col. Potter from M-A-S-H) began the sermon (note: this is CHRISTMAS EVE!;) with the following statement:

"It was an active year at St. XXX. We had 22 funerals."

He went on to explain how death and Christmas are connected, but, I wasn't really paying attention after that.

Carolyn Hax: Ooh, I would have. It's like waiting to see how a thriller manages to answer all the open questions by the end.

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Thwapping: When we were kids, my best friend set her hair on fire one year with her candle at the Christmas Eve service. I can't hear the song "Silent Night" without thinking something is on fire.

Carolyn Hax: What is it about "Silent Night"? That's the one that sends me every year, since my family and I were singing it in church about 10 years ago and we noticed the typo in the program, "Radiant beans from Thy holy face."

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Carolyn Hax: This just in: Pops has sent TNBC. Pardon the pause for formatting ...

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Carolyn Hax: The Night Before Christmas
2003 Edition
By Pops



Twas the night before Christmas
And this much is plain.
We have sightings of Elvis,
But not Saddam Hussein.

The stockings got hung
By the chimney, each pair
And those with plus sizes
Got more than their share.

The children were nestled
All snug in their sheets
They pulled up their blankets'
Exposing their feets.

And ma in her kerchief
And I in my mittens
Rolled over in bed,
On top of the kittens.

When out on the lawn
There arose such a clatter.
I jumped on the scale,
Found out I was fatter

Away to the window
I flew like a flash
I stepped in the bedpan
And made a big splash

The moon lit the breast
Of the new-fallen snow
The snow has a breast?
Then where'd the bra go?

When what to my wondering
Eyes should appear
But a guy in a sled
Getting pulled by some deer.

The little old driver
Was lively and quick
When the deer slowed down
He hit em with a brick

More rapid than eagles
His coursers they came.
What's a courser? A deer
With an alternative name.

On Osama, on Saddam
On Dubya and Ronald
On JLo, on Condy,
Slick Willy and Donald!

To the top of the porch,
To the top of the wall,
The fat guy in back
Was not very tall.

As dry leaves before
The wild hurricane fly,
So up went the sled
And the deer, and the guy.

On up to the housetop
Old Santa he flew.
I know, a strange story,
Not sure if it's true.

And then in a twinkling
I heard out in back,
Santa passing gas
As he lifted his pack.

As I drew in my head
And was turning around
Down the flue came Santa
In a furry round mound.

He was dressed all in fur
from his head to his toes
All sorts of crusty bits
hung from his nose.

A bundle of toys
He had stuffed in his pack.
Chimneys and reindeer poop
Made his clothing look black.

His eyes how they twinkled,
his dimples, how merry.
His makeup was done
By an elf named Jerry.

His droll little mouth
Was drawn up like a bow,
The stuff in his nose
Would sway to and fro.

The stump of a pipe
He had stuffed in his face.
He passed out his toys,
Regardless of race.

He had a broad face
And a round little belly--
He could barely see past it,
When watching the telly.

He laughed and he laughed,
A right jolly old elf.
As to what was so funny,
He kept to himself.

With a wink of his eye
And a twist of his head,
Some underwear showed,
It also was red.

He spoke not a word
But went straight to his task.
Just why did he do this?
Why don't you ask?

He then lay his finger
In front of his nose.
Which dripped at the time,
so that's where it froze.

He sprang to his sled,
To his team gave a yell.
When the deer peeled out,
Santa staggered and fell.

But I heard him exclaim
As he flew from the yard,
"I'm old and I'm overweight,
This job is too hard."

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Trainwreck Christmas: Here's how it's happening this year. Mom is angry with sister after mom blows up at older brother for a percieved snub. Mom decides to cancel Christmas plans with sister and vows to sit at home, feeling sorry for herself. I am spending the holiday with my fiance's family, who's mom is dealing with cancer so I want to celebrate with them. Mom is now in snit with me for choosing them over her. I'm fed up with the whole thing!

Carolyn Hax: Then you're doing the right thing. Hang in there. High drama has a short half life.

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Arlington, Va.: I'm passing this story along for a friend. Her mother constantly shortens words into one syllable (e.g., 'just a min'instead of 'just a minute'). It's just a thing she does. Well, last year, the family had finshed the first round of their holiday feast and were sitting back relaxing in the den when Mom comes in and says "Anyone up for secs?"
It took her a minute to figure out why everyone burst into laughter.

Carolyn Hax: Excellent. Thank your friend.

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Falls Church, Va.: Hi Carolyn! Spending a few days with my boyfriend's family for the holidays. The only thing is, these people -- while extremely nice -- live like pigs. I'm talking about leaving food out for days on end, a bathroom with a ring of poo in the toilet that never seems to go away, stained laundry piled on the couch -- etc. I've never spent more than a day at a time there before, and I am not relishing showering in a foul bathroom or eating in a kitchen that smells of old milk. How can I handle this without being rude? I'm almost tempted to bring cleaning supplies and clean the bathroom myself.

Carolyn Hax: See "hotel" answer, above.

And, see "i'm regretting having just eaten lunch answer, more above.

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TNBC: Can we all marry your father?

Carolyn Hax: Consider carefully. Would you want to be my stepmother?

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Midwest: Hello Ms. Hax,

I can't be there for the chat. Finals are done and I'm going skiing, woo hoo!, but I'll read the transcript next week.

Anyway, my problem is my brother. He's been married a couple years and every year he spends Christmas with his wife's family. My parents are always telling him how when my grandparents were alive, my parents split holidays between both sides of the family, but he won't take the hint. My brother spent Thanksgiving with his wife's family and I was with my boyfriend, so I suggested that we should both spend Christmas with our parents (even my boyfriend is able to be there). My brother put me off with some vague statements about making an effort to see as many people as possible during the holidays. I finally just asked him straight up why he doesn't care about our family and never comes on Christmas day. He claims he cares about family but dates aren't important. He thinks it doesn't matter whether he comes on the 25th or the 28th. His wife has rejected a relationship with us since before their wedding. I've gotten over her little slights, but their favortism for his wife's family is tearing up my parents. How can I make him understand how important it is for family to be together on Christmas? I know he has to spend some time with his wife's family now that they're married, but every Christmas for the past six years? Is there anything I can do to make this easier for my parents? I try to be there for them, but I have my own life too and can't always be around to make up for him.

Carolyn Hax: Should we mess with her and not answer? Sorry, forum is for the huddled deskbound masses only, ptttttht.

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Carolyn Hax: Oh all right. If your parents have something to say to your brother, they need to say it, not you, and they need not to hint.

But I'm not sure any of you should say anything, especially now that you've finally confronted him directly. He gave you as much as an answer as you're apparently going to get, and it includes the six-year precedent of spending xmas with her side. So, he's not going to spend this time with your parents.

If I had to give you an explanation, I'd guess that his wife doesn't want to be with your family, for whatever reason. Is that good? Probably not, but I also don't know what the room chemistry's like when she and your family mix. To be fair, your brother could have his reasons, too, so don't train your mad-guns on her unless you have specific knowledge of both of their feelings.

Also, to say it's about "their" favoritism for her fam isn't fair to your brother. He could very well be making a sacrifice that he feels he owes his wife, end of story. And that isn't necessarily awful, either, since, unless she's being completely irrational and unfair in her demands, his allegiance has to be to her now over your parents.

This is a whole lot of speculation, but there's a point to it, I swear: Use it to remind yourself that you don't know the whole story here, and drop the issue. You're an adult, your parents are adults, your brother is an adult. You don't need to "make up for" your brother. Just drop it, and live. Merry Christmas.

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Crab Claw Fangs: Just had to share...

It's always been a tradition for my family to have a big seafood appetizer platter with dinner on Christmas. I don't know how, or why this even started, but one year, (maybe too much eggnog?), I looked up from my dinner to see my mom and dad putting the crab claws in their mouths as faux fangs. So of course, we all started doing it, and now we take the annual Crab Claw Photo every year.

Are we abnormal? I hope so. It's much more fun!;

Carolyn Hax: Is it the Christmas card photo every year?

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Burke, Va.: Carolyn, I hope you and your Dad don't mind, but I read his TNBC last year for the family on Christmas Eve and it was a big hit. A plagiarized family tradition, thanks to you both.

Carolyn Hax: As long as Pops retains the film rights, I'm sure he won't mind.

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Midnight Mass: I went to a Catholic school and still remember the wonderful story our 7th grade teacher told us about attending Midnight Mass with her grandmother. Seems grandma had a little too much to drink at the celebratory dinner and when my teacher, who was a child at the time, looked over at her at one point during the mass, grandma was spitting over the balcony trying to hit the bald spot on the man below. Ah...Good Times!;

Carolyn Hax: I think Mr./Ms. Previous Poster is going to be very upset about this.

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Yo-yo-ville! USA: My dad is planning to bring his girlfriend home for Christmas. And trying to get her to move in with him. Six weeks ago he was going to break up with her. They break up angrily every few months, followed by dramatic reunions. FYI, my mom passed away several years ago so my siblings and I have no problem with him dating, just when he acts foolish. Any thoughts as to how we get him to be a little smarter about this stuff? I am starting to conclude this is just the way he is, even though his relationship with our mom was very stable. Maybe he just thrives on the drama. How do we say "Hey man .. THINK!" ?

Carolyn Hax: Eh, don't bother. Make popcorn.

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Herndon, Va.: Another Xmas funny...My father-in-law enjoys model cars and last year his wife give him a model of a Humvee. He proudly stated at a family gathering "My wife gave me a Hummer for XMAS!"
None of the older folks could figure out why us "kids" were laughing so hard!

Carolyn Hax: I think I just choked.

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Guilt: People can only guilt you if you let them. Perhaps gift guilting is a common mom thing - my mom does it. I just say thanks and give it away -- tried saying "hey mom, I appreciate X, but you know I don't really have a way to use it" -- but she's buying for her fantasy daughter, and is pretty cool 11 months of 12.

Carolyn Hax: Or, she's buying something she'd want, which is what a lot of people do without realizing it. It's also a much less loaded mistake, if that helps, though your 11-of-12 reasoning stands perfectly well on its own. Thanks.

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Cambridge, Mass.: Boy and I have been dating nearly two years now and I've met his family a few times. His sister keeps asking him what she should get me for Christmas despite my having said several times that I don't expect anything. I tend to think that if you don't know the person well enough to come up with a gift idea, you're probably not expected to get them presents (excluding business and hospitality gifts, of course). Also, when I did finally come up with an idea for a small present that would have been fun, inexpensive, AND something I actually need and want, Sister-of-boy dismissed it as "not a real present." I really don't like the rote exchange of meaningless, useless stuff that Christmas seems to become if you start to expect that everyone you know must give you a present and be given one in return -- and that there's such a thing as "real presents".
So, long story short -- am I overreacting? Am I being a grinch by insisting that she doesn't owe me a present just because I date her brother? She lives across the country, so it's not like we see each other all the time and are great friends.

Carolyn Hax: Maybe she's manipulative and laying the foundation to complain about your gift to her--or maybe she's just happy her brother's with someone she or the family likes. Who knows. Maybe you can get around the whole thing by suggesting you both give each other copies of the best book (or two or three) you've read this year. A little buy-n-bond you can easily sustain as long as you're with her brother.

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Rockville, Md.: Okay, so what's a hummer? I don't get it. I am afraid I am going to look really square or uncool asking this question, but I want to choke to.

Carolyn Hax: Maybe choking wasn't the best choice of words. Hummer = fellatio. (Not sure BJ is Live Onlineable.)

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Kansas City, Mo.: Hi Carolyn, hope your day is going well. I'm a college student, about to graduate, and have no real relationship with my grandmother. I always wanted a grandma who made cookies or quilts, or at least asked me how I was doing instead of launching into a tirade about how terrible her (insert body part) hurts, and I've resigned myself to the fact that I just don't have that kind of grandma. I still go see her whenever I'm home for a break, but it's usually agonizing. I've told my mom that I feel Grandma doesn't even like me. Well, Mom told this to Grandma, who wrote a letter that she stuck in my birthday card this year, which basically says that no, she doesn't like me. Because I was depressed and had an eating disorder when I was younger (16-18 years old), and this hurt my mother terribly, and Grandma can't get past how much I hurt Mom.
So my question is, should I keep trying to have a relationship with my grandma? Or just go see her on holidays with the rest of my family and put a smile on my face? Or should I just give up on the whole deal? Thanks, Carolyn.

Carolyn Hax: What a horrible thing. I'm sorry. And, in fact, I'm torn about what to tell you since there are a few ways you could go with this. Writing off Grandma Cuddles is one of them. She's not what you hoped she would be, you're not what she hoped you'd be, and maybe accepting that will be liberating.

Still, I'm leaning toward options two and three. Most direct would be to write back to your grandmother to say you're not proud of what happened during those years, but that you are proud that you have overcome the serious illnesses you had when you were younger--"illnesses" meaning that were hardly intentional, and certainly not meant to hurt anyone. Say you don't expect her to understand, but you would appreciate her seeing you for who you have become instead of holding the past against you.

Option three, since your mother put herself in the middle of this, is to share the letter with your mom and talk to her about it. Not in an accusing way, but in a what-am-I-supposed-to-think way.

The reason I'm torn is that being direct feels like the mature route, but, if I were in your place, I'd want my mother's support. Badly. So I'll throw it to you--does one of these seem to promise satisfaction more than the others?

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Alexandria, Va.: OK, pet peeve ... it's CHRISTmas people. NOT X-Mas. The reason for the holiday is the birth of Christ. Not an X. Sorry for the rant, it just really drives me nuts. Oh, and really enjoy the sharing of family stories ... makes me long for the lost days of my big family gatherings.

Carolyn Hax: Jet-cooling time. From Merriam-Webster online:

Etymology: X (symbol for Christ, from the Greek letter chi (X), initial of Christos Christ) + -mas (in Christmas)

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Chilly Philly: Carolyn,
Brother and his wife live minutes from my parents and my other siblings, yet for the most part we don't see or hear from them throughout the year (wife doesn't like our family). However, they seem to turn on the sweetness at birthdays and Christmas -- they send us cards but then get snitty when my parents don't buy them gifts (I wish I were kidding about this.). They are in serious financial trouble so all they really want is money. My parents think they should get them gifts so that maybe the relationship can eventually be improved (they love my SIL and have always been welcoming and kind to her). Siblings and I say not to give in and give them money to be snubbed for the next year. What are your thoughts?

I REALLY wish I was joking about this!

Carolyn Hax: I agree with the kids, but I also think you've made your point. If there's any possibility at all that generosity could thaw the relationship between them and their son, then you need to let them act on it. And even if there isn't, then you still need to let them do what they think they have to. Sad.

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"I want to choke too": Right up there with Death Chair, Bacon Pants and
that Rooster/Hen pitcher thing.

Carolyn Hax: I know. A little gift with every year.

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Maryland Suburbs: What do you get for Christmas for someone you've only recently begun seeing/dating? No official pronounciation of girlfriend/boyfriend though.

Carolyn Hax: Tickets to something you can go to together? Just make sure they don't have a lead time longer than a week or two.

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Falls Church, Va.: (Online only.) Whoopee, my husband and I get to drive 10 hours (that's if there's no traffic or bad weather) north to be with his father. Neither one of us wants to go. There's going to be much ignoring of the elephant in the living room that is our dislike of the (widower) father's new wife, which my husband refuses to admit to his father despite his father's accusations, and as it's his family, I'm trying to stay out of it and defer to him. He's afraid his father will excommunicate him if he admits to simply not liking her. Fun times. So bring on the wacky holiday stories -- I need them.

Carolyn Hax: Q: Why are you going?

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Carolyn Hax: Oop, must go. 2:13 and a two-foot tall person has come in to say hello. Thanks everybody, and type to you next ... Thursday okay? I just found out about a holiday lunch Friday, so if it's okay with Liz I'm going to bump this a day early. I guess assume Thursday but check the sked to be sure. Have a great weekend.

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