Tell Me About It

With Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 9, 2004; 12:00 PM

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

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

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


State of Confusion: He's 40, I'm 25. We've been together for six months, both recognizing the age difference and staying a little aloof, but now feelings on both sides are growing stronger. Is it a disaster waiting to happen? Because he's really, really great.

Carolyn Hax: Disasters happen when people rush into things, ignore signs, overrule better judgment, etc.--not when they go outside the mainstream, and not when they take their time to find out someone is really, really great.

Actually, disasters can happen then, too, because they always can, but they tend to be warmly remembered or at least educational disasters, vs. what-was-I-thinking disasters. Mazel tov.


Single & Looking: Dear Carolyn,

I haven't dated much for about a year (busy with work) and one of my resolutions this year was to get out there and try to date some this year. Someone mentioned a national singles volunteering group to me -- do you know any more about this?

Also, a friend of mine is pushing me to go to I still feel a little weird about online dating -- would so much rather meet someone through a friend, but a lot of my friends are married and don't know many, or any, single guys. Any comments from the peanuts about online dating experiences?

Carolyn Hax:

If you feel weird about online dating, don't do it--or at least exhaust more appealing avenues first, like just trying new things. Anecdotally, you'll hear opinions on it from met-my-spouse love to never-again hate. At least I have.


San Diego, Calif.: Carolyn,
Why does your picture appear in the Sacramento Bee and not in the San Diego Union-Tribune?

Carolyn Hax: Darts are more popular in Sacramento.


North Shore: Carolyn, Nick G spoke so highly and sweetly of you during his chat last week. I wish all of my relationships could end with the same mutual respect.

Carolyn Hax: Or with the same damning photographs.


Carolyn Hax: Oh, that reminds me, I'm supposed to pass along a message from Nick--he said he read over the transcript afterward and thinks, through the many Qs and As on it, he actually managed to answer the question on diversity and stereotypes in his cartoons. (If you recall, he kept promising that he'd write a more thorough answer later and have me post it.) If anyone still feels he has mor 'splainin to do, I'll send or post his answer. All 20,000 words of it.


Clarendon, Va.: I might be out-of-line here, but this is in response to the 23 year old girl with the SO still tied to his parents. He might be tied because of financial reasons. I have seen parents who still control their children way into their late twenties because they use money as a means to control the child. For example, paying their way through grad school, anew car, help with a down payment on a home all seem to justify to them a way to hold their child's puppet strings. My advice -- DO NOT let your SO's parents $$ have more control over him than your relationship. You are just setting yourself up for heartbreak. Let him grow up and find financial security on his own!

Carolyn Hax: You're not out of line, just possibly off the trail. Still, it happens enough so that even if it's not true for the column guy it could be true for others dealing with this. So, here it is. Thanks muchly.


Southwest Virginia: Cancer sucks. Can I just say that? It's taken three great women from my family, the most recent one just yesterday. Thanks for listening.

Carolyn Hax: You can. I'm sorry.


Cowering under the sofa: So, I've only been married a few months and my husband has already turned into the Al Bundy cliche: laying around like a beached whale, scratching and adjusting himself, dressing like a slob and never shaving. I'm completely grossed out -- I've tried telling him that I can't be attracted to someone who pees with the door open, but his response is "I'm a guy." I believe he has a responsibility to maintain himself for me and not make any drastic changes, he thinks marriage means he can "relax" and that I'm being unrealistic. Do I have unrealistic expectations of marriage, or is my husband a hopeless slob?

Carolyn Hax: Can I pick both? Or option 3, you didn't know each other nearly well enough before you got married.

I know that's stating the bloody obvious, but it's the first part of my advice to you, too: that instead of fighting him on the point of who owes whom what, you need to start trying to get to know him. Even if you "win" a few battles, like putting a spring on the bathroom door, you're still stuck with him as-is; you're not getting Courtship Man back, nor should you, nor should you have to keep up any acts either.

Of course, should "should" have ditched any acts before you got married, or, even better, not put on any in the first place--another twofer for the Bloody Obvious file--but the chance at damamge prevention has passed and now you're into the damage-control options.


Takoma Park, Md.: Cancer is nature's way of telling you that all of the neurotic dietary, lifestyle, and pleasure restrictions you want to place on yourself sometimes isn't gonna make a difference. Get out there and enjoy life instead of living in fear of what might happen or cursing what already has.

Carolyn Hax: Love the philosophy, fear the implications if taken to the extreme. Meaning, I guess, "Yay, what s/he said, just don't smoke or get really fat."


Nick explanation please: Please post it. I think that the people accusing him of stereotypes are completely in the wrong but I'd still like to read his response. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: I'll do it next week. He wrote it in a wee-hours burst and said it rambles a bit.


Fairfax, Va.: Where can I go locally to find Anger Management Classes for my husband and myself? You would think they'd be easy to find but they aren't.

Carolyn Hax: I bleev the Women's Center covers that--


Link to Nick's discussion: Hey, can you post a link to Nick's discussion or tell me where to find it? I missed it and can't seem to locate it on the Live Online archive. Thanks! Love you! Right here.

Carolyn Hax: Love Liz!


Silver Spring, Md.: I'm another single whose being pressured to try the online thing. Most of the people I know who have tried it have had great results, but it still doesn't feel right to me.

When I try to explain that my instincts are saying NO, my friends tell me I'm just making excuses.

Carolyn Hax: "It's an explanation, not an excuse."

"Bite me" optional.


Re: Cowering: Yet another reason why living together first can be such a good idea. Know it's not for everyone, but it's much harder to keep up any acting day after day when you're always together.

Carolyn Hax: True. As long as the mutual (MUTUAL) willingness to be in a lifetime commitment with the person comes first--and you have a mutual vision of how that commitment should go (eg, eventual marriage or not, kids or not, etc), then I agree it's a good way to strip away the smoke/mirrors/makeup. Entered into lightly, it's a good way to spend months or even years with someone you don't love because you dread separating your stuff.


Massachussetts: Fluffy 20-years out of high school etiquette question:
I've run this by a few people I know, and thought maybe I'd get some other views on it.

I recently ran into one of my chief tormentors from JR/SR High while doing some holiday shopping. I had no idea who she was until she introduced herself to me. I was pleasant, "Hi, great to see you. You look fantastic. I'd love to chat more, but I'm on my out" (my baby was tired and hungry) and waved and moved on. I wasn't brusque, and treated her as I would anyone I hadn't seen in 20 years and really didn't know all that well. As I was walking away, she turned and hollered, "you know, it's been 20 years, you should really have grown up and gotten over things by now." WTH?

Now, I am not one to hold a grudge. I know no one is the same person he/she was in high school, except maybe for this person. But was I right to just look stunned and turn and leave? Was I supposed to have asked her to lunch or suggest we get together sometime even though I didn't mean it? Is there some faux pas I made along the way?

Just wondering.

Carolyn Hax: Sounds like she's just as awful as she was in HS. From what you describe, you did fine.


Seattle, Wash.: Carolyn,
I'm going to see two old flames this afternoon, both of whom I am still interested in. Any advice on how to convey that without sounding desperate or manipulative? One lost interest in me, the other I dumped rather abruptly and without explanation. It's been years on both counts.

Carolyn Hax: Don't convey it. Egad. Go, see, see what happens. It has been years, so respect that. A lot can happen, including your losing interest.


Cowering under the sofa: So, let me get this straight -- I'm being a brat because my husband makes no effort whatsoever to be attractive for me? And then bitches at me for not being attracted to him? Trust me, this behavior goes beyond standard guy stuff -- I've had male roommates for most of my adult life, and it's all stuff he said he wouldn't do when we got married.

You're always saying that people should keep themselves reasonably close to the condition they were in when they married (example: weight gain) and to do otherwise is to marry under false pretenses. I'm not sure how this situation is different from any other in which one partner changes drastically since the marriage day.

Carolyn Hax: Hello, I didn't call you a brat. Though with this post, you're doing a convincing impression of one.

I said you didn't get to know each other before you got married because it didn't sound to me like he changed so much as shielded you from his regular home habits. If it's stuff he said he wouldn't do and is now doing, then, yes, he lied to you.

No matter how right you are, though, the anger isn't getting you anywhere. Do something with it--get counseling, change your expectations enough to like him this way, leave. Asking him to change on principle was a fine start but it didn't work. Again, you're into damage control now. I sucks but it is.


Carolyn Hax: I sucks, too, but there really should be a "t" in there. Thank yew.


Chief Tormenter: Sounds like guilt to me.

Carolyn Hax: And impressively well-earned at that.


Regarding the newlywed and Al Bundy: Is it weird to be scared that my SO will get fat after we get married?

Carolyn Hax: Depends. Do some unhealthy habits point that way, or is this just a preoccupation with and unjust loathing of fat people? Way too broad a question. If you will.


Chicago, Ill.: I'm 21 and I can't talk to men. I am straight, but do not have any male friends. When I am in the presence of a man, I get nervous, sweaty and awkward. The more I try to meet them, the more I am rejected and the worse the situation gets. I have not had any romance in two years, and due to my opposite-sex anxiety, do not forsee any in the future. Any words of wisdom for the girl who is scared of men but sincerely wants one in her life?

Carolyn Hax: Lower your ambitions as dramatically as possible, from wanting a man in your life to wanting a man to hear you utter a full sentence. I'm not being snotty, either--I'm dead serious. Your expectations are adding pressure that your already-strained nerves don't need. Instead of trying to meet men to date, try just putting yourself next to men in a regular, months-long or even years-long, low-key, nonthreatening context, and let them come to you--or let yourself get used to men enough (and let your confidence build up enough) for you to reach out to them in very small, "would you please pass the salt" ways. You can work your way up from there.

Suggestions for that context are my usual ones--volunteer gig, class, fitness group, church group, whatever fits in with your interests. Chicago has a Single Volunteers chapter, too.


Cowering: Sorry I took my anger out on you, Carolyn. I'm just really frustrated to have married the standard beached-whale so-what's-for-dinner guy, when he promised not to be that way. I'm going to lay it on the line with him that I feel that he married me under false pretenses and I can't live this way. Luckily, we agreed before marriage that if one of us believes we need counseling, both of us have to go. I'll give it a try tonight. Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: 'Sokay, I am (mostly) used to it. Thanks for being cool about it, and good luck.


D.C. -- competition: Do you realize you're competing with Ash from "Evil Dead" right now? Do you have a chainsaw for a hand? No? Buhbye.

Carolyn Hax: I hope someone's typing for him.


Washington, D.C.: I loathe fat people. If my significant other gets fat, I'm going to beat her. Cheers milady! It's Friday.

Carolyn Hax: Finally, someone talking sense. Mwa!


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Carolyn!
Question: how do you deal with parents who financially favor one child over another? My sister and I are both in our late 20s. Ever since we were kids, my parents have given her more "stuff." When she graduated from college, she got a car. I got a pat on the back. When looking for a first apartment, my parents chipped in with her rent money ("She's just not making enough, but she's doing what she loves!"). Meanwhile I was eating ramen noodles and deciding if I could afford cable. The last straw was over the holidays, when Mom and Dad announced they were forking over money for her down payment on a house. They said they felt "compelled" because her husband's parents chipped in. My fiance and I are socking away all our spare change saving for the same goal, and my parents have blatantly told me they can't help out ("we're not made of money.") Maybe I am a spoiled brat, but I am so furious I could scream. And trouble is, screaming only makes me look like a crybaby to them, while my sister remains angelic. Should I confront them? Keep it to myself and stew? Get over it? Help, please?

Carolyn Hax: Remind yourself that people like me will always like you better? I'm sorry to respond in a way that continues to pit you against your sister, since that's the exact awful thing your parents are doing--but hey, they started it. And I also can't avoid taking sides when my central point is that the biggest victim of spoiling is almost always the one being spoiled. That's why they call it "spoiled." Your parents are doing your sister no favors, not in the long-run life-satisfaction sweepstakes. I swear. Hang in there.


Washington, D.C.: Male-phobia: is there some reason behind this? this level of anxiety makes me wonder.

Carolyn Hax: Me too, but I've seen it so often from the male side--the clammy stammering paralysis in the presence of all things female--that it seemed double-standardy to make a case of her case.


A happy, happy thing: I'm going to go home tonight after work and watch a movie while eating frosting-covered graham crackers and drinking cocoa. Because you can't get too old for cocoa. Or frosting. Or graham crackers.

It's going to be pink frosting. Is there anything happier?

Carolyn Hax: Bailey's in your cocoa.

It's been a few months, and it'll be a few more, so humor me.


Cowering under the sofa has me running scared: As someone who's never been married--and a little frightened of it -- to someone who has been (that would be you): Does marriage really change a person/relationship? Why do you think that is, assuming you're going to say yes?

Carolyn Hax: If anything gets me running scared under a sofa (I have really strong legs), it's assumptions.

I'm going to say no. When the marriage is sound, it changes neither the person nor the relationship. In fact, even when it's unsound, it doen't change anything. It just makes it legally binding, unsoundness and all. Going back to the question that started this all, the guy didn't change--he's the same guy he's been all along. He just lied about who that was.


Talking sense?: I am deeply offended by Washington, D.C.'s comment. It's not Friday in Bangkok. Show some sensitivity, will ya?

Carolyn Hax: I am abject with remorse.


Sweaty palms with men, too: Hey, for Chicago, another form of self-therapy that worked great for me:

Contra dancing. you can google it in Chicago -- there are regular dances in most big cities. No alcohol, no smoking, no partner needed, live acoustic music, it's kind of like square dancing but much more casual -- if you can walk you can contra dance. Lots of people of all shapes and sizes and ages, and you can practice "hello, how are you" with lots of people without any pressure to do more with any of them.

I realized in my mid-twenties that I was terrified to flirt, terrified to talk to men, terrified to touch under any circumstances. For whatever reason, I stumbled into contra dancing-- safe touch, men who were delighted to be my partner (and just fine with walking away afterwards) and lots and lots of "hi, how are ya?" practice.

If you're scared to go alone, take a friend -- but it is a very welcoming scene.

Carolyn Hax: The beauty of really cold climates. Thanks!


Re: Silver Spring: So would you never confront when parents are showing blantant favoritism in the money department? I almost think it would be worth it to ask "What gives? Why help out with her apartment and not mine?" just to see what the parents' justification is. Not that they have to justify their spending but I do think calling them on this is appropriate.

Carolyn Hax: I agree, I just thought it sounded like they had--she cited so many of their explanations for their decisions. But I may have --ack-- assumed too much, thanks.


Re: Gaining weight after marriage/Al Bundy syndrome: Dear God, you people are shallow! I'd love my husband if he gained 100 pounds or got all four limbs cut off, or his face mangled. I love HIM, and the essence inside, his kindness, sense of humor, and joy for life -- and no amount of peeing with the door open, weight gain, or scratching can changed that love. Grow up!

Carolyn Hax: Yeah, but to be fair, if you complained that his unshaven face hurt your skin when you kissed him, and he replied with, "Get over it," you'd think differently of his mangled, limbless, fat self. It's not the physical collapse, it's the kindness/humor/joy (or lack thereof) contained within it.


Arlington, Mass.: Carolyn,
I live with my boyfriend. While I want to continue dating him, I think I need to live alone for awhile. I feel too "domesticated" at too young an age. However, I feel morassed in this living-together situation because we share so much stuff: kitchenware, appliances, couch, TV, etc. And a lot of it is his. If I were to move out, I'd basically be living in a barren, teensy studio because I can't afford anything else, which feels daunting and horrible. No computer, no television. Any advice? I feel lazy, conflicted and paralyzed. Ya Morass.

Carolyn Hax: And people say I'M mean.

Anyway. I wish I could have posted this right after the living-together answer as Exhibit A.

Arlington? You are staying with a man for his television. If you're looking to me for permission to do this, don't. In fact, your mind, soul and spirit are sreaming at you to do otherwise. Please listen to them before they start to die off.


Speaking of Favorites: It's so unfair that Nick wasn't forced to run a picture of himself in his online chat. Inquiring readers have long wanted to know what he looks like, and you've had to post three different versions of your own photo!; What is this, sexism? A preference for writers over cartoonists? This is an, should post his pic when you post his response.

Carolyn Hax: Better--I'm going to replace my mug with a cartoon I've drawn of myself. Thanks for the idea!


Dulles, Va.: Or you may not want to know: My mom always paid for things for my sisters and not for me. When I did confront her about it (I was in my teens), she just told me she didn't like me and she did like them. So, that put it in perspective, and provided lots of fodder for the therapist's office. BTW, I'm doing great now and my sisters' were both hamstrung by the $. Go figure. It really is better to learn to stand on one's own.

Carolyn Hax: Youch. Sounds like a compliment as well as a favor, though. Thank you.

More of these to come, all encouraging:


RE: Silver Spring: Had a friend with similar parent-sibling money issues. When she pressed for an explanation, turned out parents felt she was capable of taking care of herself but doubted sister's ability to do so. Still sucks, but sort of a backhanded compliment.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.


For spoiled sister: I know it's no consolation, but you really are going to be better off in the long run because they are favoring your sister. My parents are very egalitarian with all of us, but my husband's sisters got way more stuff throughout life than he did. He lived in dumps, they lived in nice places with rent paid by mom and dad, he took student loans for grad school, they got full rides with credit card bills paid by the rents, they got new cars for their birthdays, etc. Well, the upshot is that my husband is a self-sufficient person who can hold to a budget, has discipline, and can make decisions for himself. Unfortunately, my FIL died last year and since then, all three of my sisters in law have had to learn the hard way all the lessons that my husband got to learn in his teens/20s. Sad to say, we're the only "kids" (we're 40+) who haven't had to file for bankruptcy since my FIL died.

Carolyn Hax: Again, thanks.


Washington, D.C. - not so hasty: what size TV is it?

Carolyn Hax: Right--glad you guys are watching my back today.


Washington, D.C.: I have another point of view to that of the sanctimonious, self-satisfied prig who would love her SO no matter how mangled and limbless he became. Do you really believe HE would be same on the inside if he encountered such life altering circumstances?

So call me shallow, I like good looking guys. I do care more about his intellect, wit, and compassion than I do about his eyes, his voice and the shape of his body, but let's get real here. We're warm blooded animals, we're not living in some Platonic ivory tower.

Geez, I feel irritated!

Carolyn Hax: I'm told movies, cocoa and pink graham crackers are good for that. And being shafted by your parents.


To Arlington, Mass: Get some roomates. ONE of them is bound to have a TV or a computer they'll let you use sometimes. And they won't make any emotional demands on you.

Carolyn Hax: Not on your planet, perhaps. But the idea is otherwise sound.


Ungrateful Friends: What do you all think of this? My best friend is having a baby and I'm hosting a shower for male/female friends at my house. No family stress (the parents families don't get along) so I thought just friends getting together at my house, socializing, eating, opening gifts. She has a busy work schedule so I asked her which month would work best for her and her response was "the shower is going to suck because everyone except me can drink alcohol so I don't care when you do it. I just want to open gifts and go the F home."

I'm horrified and wish I could just call the whole thing off! How can someone be so ungrateful?

Carolyn Hax: I know I'm not supposed to be laughing (out loud). Really, I just hate myself for it.

[Determined biting of lip.]

Tell her you get the distinct sense she doesn't want this shower, and that you're just going to call it off unless she changes her mind. Not angrily, just make it matter-of-fact. Let her come around (or not).


Superexcitingweddingquestion: My mom wants to host a shower for me, for all her relatives who won't be able to travel to my out-of-town wedding. I've heard this is in bad taste, etiquette-wise. But my mom thinks her relatives would be more angry at not getting to go to a shower than they will be at the shower-thrown-by-mother-of-the-bride. I really have no friends who aren't related to me in my hometown, so no non-relatives can throw this shower. Any thoughts? So, what was the exciting part?

Carolyn Hax: Liz has chainsaws on both hands today.

You're right, this runs against the laws of good taste. But these people want to be included and your mom wants to include them, so it sounds almost petty to cry etiquette and deny them. Have fun and register cheap.


Re: Baby Shower: Wow, talk about hormonal surges!;

Carolyn Hax: We hope.


To Arlington, from Cowering: Hell, if you leave the guy, maybe you can take my husband's tv. It'll give him one less thing to scratch himself in front of. Heh.

Oh, and of course I love my husband - I wouldn't have married him and moved to a foreign country for him if I didn't. So, please spare the "shallow" routine, lady-who-would-love-her-husband-no-matter-what. I just didn't think he'd get so sloppy so fast - jeez, it's only been a few months!;

Carolyn Hax: I just love how my readers take care of each other!!!


Laurel, Md.: I think that my spouse could use some anger management training, but I think that suggesting it would make him angry! Is there any counseling that I can get on my side to help me deal with his temper? He is not physically violent, but he just gets angry over and over about the same few issues, without ever making an attempt to adjust. I find it very wearing, not to mention disliking his explosions happening in front of our one year old daughter.

Carolyn Hax: Yes, please get counseling--the Women's Center info I posted above should apply to your situation, too. Apparently they have branches throughout the DC area. If nothing they pffer is right or accessible, call 1-800-799-SAFE for other local counseling options. If his temper is so bad you can't even approach him on things, you have to HAVE TO treat it as a serious problem. Especially for your little girl's sake.


Re: Baby Shower: Do you think that's why there's family tension? Just kidding. But did she ask what was up? Is this kind of reaction completely out of character for her friend?

Carolyn Hax: Good question, thanks--context is probably everything here. Whether she has past alcohol problems, whether she tends to snap when she's stressed out at work, whether her sense of humor tends to the dark, whether she's been dramatically moodier during her pregnancy, etc.


Spoiled sibling: So how come no one who was spoiled ever writes in to complain about being spoiled?

Carolyn Hax: They can't figure out how to get online.


Totally innocent question, really: I've never been pregnant, so I don't know, but...all my friends say you can drink very moderately in the 2nd and 3rd trimester. So, why can't you drink Bailey's, Carolyn, and why can't the hormonal shower recipient drink champagne at her shower?

Geezh, they deny you so much when you're pregnant!; It's a wonder the population is still growing.

Carolyn Hax: Even though it's widely believed that a little bit isn't bad for the baby, it's also known that alcohol isn't good for the baby, so you end up looking at a glass and thinking, will I get THAT much out of it? At least I think that. And I say no, and take a sip of someone else's maybe, but that's it. But I also think the most important thing, both from your position and mine, is to stay out of other people's thought processes. If one preggo abstains, don't press, and if another chooses moderation, don't judge.


Downtown Washington, D.C.: Is it just me, or could the majority of the posters on today's chat use a little anger management?

Goodness Carolyn, you are a saint to put up with us fruitbats.

Carolyn Hax: I thought I was the fruitbat and you guys were the saints.


Carolyn Hax: Can pregnant fruitbats drink?


RE: shower: Who serves alcohol at a baby shower?

Carolyn Hax: Everyone, I hope. Those things are dreadful.


Re: Sanctimonious woman with the armless husband: Doesn't she get that there's a difference between a husband who gets his arms cut off or face mangled in an accident, and one who chooses to have his arms & legs amputated so he doesn't have to bother with personal hygene, or help around the house anymore? Situation one, still love the guy. Situation two, he's on his own.

Carolyn Hax: I think we covered this, but I'm posting it for the location.


Daughter Duty...: Hey Carolyn, this isn't a romantic relationship question, but it's still important, so I hope you can squeeze it in. My sister is in the process of planning to take her children and move to another state. She has not told her soon to be ex-husband about it at all. She plans to pack and move next weekend. She didn't tell anyone in the family and my mother only weaslled it out of her last night. I think what she is doing is WRONG and selfish and a large part of me is dying to call her ex-hubby up and tip him off to her plans before she can run. She claims her lawyer will be contacting him, but at this point I think everything she says is a lie. However, my mother begged and pleaded with me not to do anything because she is afraid that if I get involved in the custody dispute I would tell the world the truth about my sister and she would lose her kids and that "would tear this family apart." My position is that my sister has already torn the family apart through her irresponsible actions (no abuse, but she's an alcoholic who drags men in and out of her children's lives and is a pathological liar) and that someone should step in and say enough is enough. Also, I am afraid that if she leaves the state I may never see my godchildren again, and I love them and worry about them constantly.

So what say you Carolyn, should I stay out of this custody battle or speak up? I don't think she would ever deliberately hurt her children, but her complete inability to see how her actions affect other causes her to make really bad choices and do things that cause a lot of emotional pain.

Carolyn Hax: What an unbearable spot to be in. While the answer may seem obvious--tip off the soon-to-be-ex-husband--I hesitate to advise it because there might be things about him that your sister knows and you don't. There have been just too many cases where people thoughtfully, reasonably decided intervening was the only moral course, only to find out that they were missing a key fact that changed everything. And, obviously, I don't have all the facts, including whether you have them or not.

So. My advice I guess has to be: stare hard at the facts you have, and consider the children ONLY--not your sister, not your mom, not yourself as potentially bereft godmother--and do only what you feel you can live with.



TV land: You can get a cheap TV anywhere. Stifling relationships are very, very expensive.

Carolyn Hax: And you can get them anywhere, too.

Time to go claim some Friday afternoon (Saturday in Bangkok). Thanks everybody, and type to you next week. Oh, and remind me to post that Nick thing, if I forget. You know, the photo and phone number.


For Godmother: Maybe she can call her sister's lawyer and check to see if she is really doing what she said. You might alert the lawyer in your own way and s/he might prevent her from moving and creating more legal problems for herself (which is what I think she is doing). It's a tough decision.

Carolyn Hax: If she knows the lawyer's name, I like it. Tx.


eggleston virginia: Eee. Carolyn, please put the myth that "moderate" drinking is okay to rest. This is not a political correctness issue, it's a medical question, and according to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol there is NO safe level of alcohol ingestion at ANY point during pregnancy. The detrimental effects of moderate drinking may be subtler but are nonetheless lifelong, with judgment and consequential thinking particularly affected. Why risk your infant's brain development for a couple of beers.

Carolyn Hax: People should talk to their OBs/midwives before making ANY decision on this. That's as far as I go with this one. Thanks for the post.


re: running mom: Ok, this may not help, but maybe she could call her sister's lawyer, and just say "I wanted to make sure that she's not going to get into any trouble if she leaves the state with the kids while the custody battle rages." The lawyer won't answer her (lawyer's obligation is to the client), but it seems to me that leaving the state with the kids, unless the court has allowed it or the other spouse has agreed, could cause real problems for the departing parent. Lawyer will try to rein in the mom, if it's going to cause future problems. Just my 2 cents (and maybe not worth that much).

Carolyn Hax: But more realistic on what the lawyer can (and can't) do, thanks.


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