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With Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 5, 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: 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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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hey Carolyn,
Last night at a restaurant, our waiter asked me "how far along" I was in my "pregnancy." Yeah, I'm not pregnant. Not aware I was even noticeably porky until that comment. Am feeling totally depressed and ugly now. I also used to have an eating disorder, and am finding myself want to throw up constantly now. Any tricks for getting this guy's comment out of my head? Also, what's a good comeback to something like that? I just sort of sat there, horrified, while my boyfriend did the talking. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Ugh. First of all, there's no good "comeback." "I'm not pregnant" not only says all that needs to be said, but it also, one hopes, strikes one more person off the list of those who think it's okay to ask a question like that of any woman who isn't actively in labor. Or at least is doing a great impression of a beach-ball smuggler. I know most of that list means well, but it's a bad question to ask unless you're dead certain.

If it makes you feel any better, I've been asked that twice, many years apart, while decidedly not pregnant.

And I wasn't "noticeably porky," either, which brings me to the other part of your question. Both times, I was wearing something that helped create the impression--a loose fitting dress on one occasion and something tight that made my belly look round on the other. And, magazine goddesses be damned, having a round belly is not the worst thing that ever happened to a body. It's natural, feminine--and no small faction of people finds it sexier than sixpack abs. So please don't take it as an occasion to relapse.

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New Jersey: Carolyn, this might be too petty for you -- or maybe a question for Miss Manners -- but I really need some help here.

My brother's fiancee, who I really like, asked me to come wedding dress shopping with her. I was happy to. In doing so I discovered that she does not shave her armpits and was looking at a lot of sleeveless dresses. I think to each her own, especially on one's wedding day, but I hate to think of others at the wedding snickering behind her back. Other than guiding her towards dresses with sleeves is there anything I can do? I should just shut up, right?

Carolyn Hax: Right, because she has obviously chosen to be fluffy, along with all that entails. Besides, my pity in this case is reserved for those who would snicker, and not for the snickeree--I mean, grow up, people.

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Washington, D.C.: This may seem like a really basic question, but how does one go about increasing their self esteem?

Carolyn Hax: Basic version of a complicated answer: Do things that make you feel good--either because you're good at them, you enjoy doing them or they're just good things to do (like volunteer or exercise or let people in ahead of you when you're in traffic).

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Lexington, Mass.: (Online only, please.) Hi Carolyn, I am a guy who loves his girlfriend very much. We have been dating for about a year, and recently we've become more and more comfortable with one another (spending the night more frequently, etc). Well I notice that not only does she keep her bedroom like a kid's, with stuffed animals everywhere, she talks to her stuffed animals and sort of incorporates them into our daily lives. For instance, she will act out little scenarios with them or "talk" to me through them (some of them have voices). I know this sounds insane -- she is normal in public and in every other way. She just treats her stuffed animals like people, and it sort of makes me feel weird. I even suggested that she put her animals in a trunk for awhile, and she got very sad.

Is this abnormal behavior for a twentysomething woman? A sign I should be worried for her mental health? Or should I suck it up, animals and all? Thanks in advance.

Carolyn Hax: Isn't this a Cheers episode? Anyway ... If nothing else it's incredibly juvenile, which is rarely a really good sign. But you've been with her a year. Surely you have some context that can tell you whether this is an isolated barfworthy trait or a sign of a previously underappreciated insipid streak? Also rarely a good sign.

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Your own advice: Do you volunteer, exercise and let people in ahead of you in traffic?

Carolyn Hax: 2.2 of three (my volunteer efforts are sporadic at best), unless a person tries to nudge ahead of me in traffic without waiting to see if I'll offer. Then I sometimes get childish.

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Not pregnant either: To the woman who got the pregnancy comment -- I totally sympathize. I had an eating disorder for many years, too, but have been better for about two years. At a Christmas party last year, when I was filling up my plate, a guy said "easy on the food -- you might get fat!" Needless to say, I felt like I was punched in the gut and it ruined my evening. Fortunately, after a day or two the sting went away.

PLEASE try not to get into a tailspin over one rude comment. Most people don't realize the impact their words can have -- especially on someone who is struggling with an invisible demon. It's not easy, but try to shrug it off and remember that at the end of the day, your health is a far, far, far more important concern than one glaring social faux pas.

Advice to others -- the great Dave Barry once wrote, "Never ask a woman if she is pregnant unless you actually see a baby emerging from her body."

Carolyn Hax: Great post, thank you. Too bad you didn't make the guy feel like he'd been punched in the gut, though.

Not literally of course since I'd never ever advocate violence. Slows down the buffet line.

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Orange County, Calif.: Carolyn, I have a bad case of "Keeping Up With the Joneses" right now. I have a nice job, steady income and moderate financial stability, but my lifestyle and savings account pale in comparisson to most of my friends and associates. It seems that our jobs define who we are in this country so much more than they should, but I do feel compelled to play tit-for-tat when those "who I am and what I make" conversations come up.

Am I being petty for wanting to keep up with these people on a socio-economic level? Maybe I should find some poorer friends.

Carolyn Hax: Or friends who don't wave their money around or talk about how much they've saved. Holy bad taste.

Question: Are you happy?

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Losing it: Carolyn,
My boyfriend of two years has always been great, supportive, everything I've wanted, etc. He has never liked my cat but he seemed to tolerate her and she likewise has tolerated, but not liked him. Well, last night I had to make the difficult decision to put her to sleep. I called my boyfriend crying after leaving the vet's office (cat alive but knowing I need to make arrangements to put her down in the next few days) and told him and he said, "Oh, good riddance!" I was speechless and I finally hung up without sayng anything. He tried calling me back and I wouldn't answer. He finally left me a message saying "what's the big deal, you know I don't like the damn cat." I am shocked and devastated by his response. Yes, I know he doesn't like the "damn cat" but I love her and he should be sad for me, right? All of a sudden after two years I feel like I don't even know this guy. Am I overreacting or is there something serious here (my gut says yes) about the way he handles my loss?

Carolyn Hax: Wise gut, I'd say. Having someone appreciate your sadness even if he doesn't feel it himself is a reasonable thing to ask--and an important one, if you're thinking long-term. I'm sorry about your little buddy.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm 38. I don't play with my stuffed animals much any more, but I do still have them. Well, the important ones.

And I have a terrible time putting them in bags, boxes, etc. I feel bad for imprisoning them.

The girlfriend may just have a more vivid imagination than he does. I mean, yeah, the acting out stuff is a bit beyond in the weird department (IMO), but some of us never get over anthropomorphizing our inanimate posessions, and it doesn't stop us from paying the mortgage and so on.

Carolyn Hax: But would you pout if asked to stow them? That's what did it for me.

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Alonesville, Va.: Hey Carolyn
Please, I really need some advice. I am just so sad. I married a wonderful loving, romantic, ambitious man almost four years ago. Today, I am married to a man who is short tempered, easily frustrated and wants to be by himself a lot. I am heartbroken because now we have a one-year-old baby! I feel like I have been duped. I feel like I have to beg him to want to spend time with me. At one point we were crazy about each other, so much love and respect for one another and he said he wanted a family and now that the family is here I feel like he should have never married me. I understand, its a huge adjustment and I have been patient. I have talked to him about everything, he even got screened for depression which was a huge step, but he isn't depressed. I think its the lack of control he has now. I don't know what to do because I am so alone in this marriage. I want a husband, I want a father that wants to be involved, (he is crazy in love with his son, but once the baby starts acting like a baby, crying, fussing, etc., he tunes out). I feel like I got the bait and switch. I don't want my son raised in a house where he feels like he has to be the perfect child! I want a husband who embraces the choas and the roller coaster ride that raising a child is. I am so heartbroken, Carolyn. I don't blame my husband, I don't think he meant to be this other man, but how do you tell someone that they should have never gotten married, never should have dragged you into this... its not fair to me, and I think I would rather raise my child in a 100 percent completely unconditional love environment -- alone -- then raise him with my husband. I don't even know if this is making sense, I am so sad. Any advice?

Carolyn Hax: I don't usually do this, but I'm going to skip the answer and go straight to the marriage-counseling suggestion. Your husband sounds lost and his withdrawal a reflex response to that lost feeling. Sad as things are now, it would be really sad if one or both of you just gave up on him now, before you tried everything possible to get him to open up. His willingness to get screened for depression makes me think he wouldn't say no to joint counseling.

Also, side suggestion based on too little information--do you ever spend time alone with him any more, or are you always with baby and hoping for happy-family moments?

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Gods. A man who can respond "Good riddance" to the death of any innocent creature, even if he didn't happen to prefer its company, is not a man you want to date.

Granted, I may be biased in that respect -- my husband and my cat get along perfectly, particularly when my husband is eating tuna. But I think that kindness to animals is a fairly key indicator of kindness in general, and that's important...

Carolyn Hax: Animals and waiters are my litmus tests. Thanks.

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Re: no sympathy for kitty: Are you sure your cat wasn't poisoned?

Also, can you get a group discount if you bring the boyfriend in to be euthanized as well?

Carolyn Hax: Can't believe I missed that one, thanks.

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Virginia: Hey Carolyn! I have been in a three-year relationship that has seen us transition from college to the "real world." We have broken up twice for short time periods for various reasons -- some beyond our control (job transfer halfway across the country.) When he moved back, we got back together and up until a few weeks ago he has said that I was the right girl for him. In the past few weeks he has pulled a 180, being stand-offish, not being affectionate and he now says he needs time to think over some things. For example: our compatablility, if we're meant to be together, etc. We have discussed his concerns openly and they aren't easily answered, except by time. So my question is, what do you advise a person who is waiting for someone to make up their mind, to do? Pull back and make themselves less available? i.e. to let the person see "what they'd be missing?" Or to remain affectionate like nothing's wrong or strange or tense, when clearly everything is. He has gotten a bit more affectionate in the past few days but still says he hasn't come to any conclusions. This is so hard because he's my best friend, too. FWIW we're both 25. Advice would be much appreciated!

Carolyn Hax: Clean break, let him think. IMHO, we deal with pain much better when we meet it head on--and you seem to be getting nothing out of being with him now anyway.

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Anywhere: Hey Carolyn,
Just a quick question I hope you answer: what do you think of a guy referring to his ex consistently as his "best friend" while he's in the midst of dating you? And what do you think when he gets upset at YOU because you're upset about it, and never says anything quite as deep about you as he does his ex?

Just wondering if there's hope and who's wrong here. Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: 1. She's his best friend. It happens.

2. How long have you been dating? I.e., building up a reasonable expectation of becoming his closest confidante? And would you resent that you weren't yet in that role if his best friend were a guy? The girlfriend title doesn't automatically confer best-friend status.

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IMHO?: I know a lot of your abbreviations, but this one went over my head. Thanks!;!;

Carolyn Hax: In My Humble Opinion. Sorry--trying to be conscious of shortcuts, but I thought that one had been around long enough to be safe.

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Takoma Park, Md.:
Social Conservative Judgemental Guy Here Responding to the Woman who may want to divorce her emotionally absent husband:

I noticed something you just didn't pick up on and that is this woman is so distraught she actually thinks it would be better for the child to be raised away from his father. Is that self-serving or is that really in the best interest of the child? I think she needs to seriously assess that feeling. Right now she has no ideas left to save the marriage it seems. That is a shame as this is a huge decision for all THREE. She already sent the husband for consuling. Now the best advice is to try and get some consuling for herself so that she can rationally make a case for how to keep her marriage together. If after that she can't do it then perhaps she can go the other way.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I did pick up on it. I just happen to agree with her, that observing a terrible, cold, loveless, etc. relationship between the parents--or having a nasty, short-tempered parent, or one who sees the kid as an imposition--can indeed be worse for a kid than a loving, one-parent home. Divorce is no picnic either, but this is a little baby who, if properly cared for in the meantime, won't have any recollection of the split, if that's what happens.

But this is just for the sake of argument--I still think these two need to get talking, fast. If they can air their differences, they can find ways to resolve or at least alleviate them, and if they can do that, no need to do drastic things that get Social Conservative Judgmental Panties in bunches.

And she didn't send the husband for counseling, she sent him to get checked for depression. The two of them now need to get lessons on how to talk to each other. Entirely different beast.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,
Any tricks in getting my boyfriend's mother to open up and like me? I adore everyone else in his family, and it seems to be reciprocated. However, I can't help feeling she doesn't think I am good enough.

Carolyn Hax: Drop it. The harder you try, the worse it'll get. If she doesn't come around, oh well, right?

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Unbelievably nosy question: But I'm going to ask it anyway.

Your profile on this page says you have a "liberal arts degree." I bet if it were an English degree you'd have just written "English," since you're a journalist. (Maybe you went to a school that awards degrees in "Liberal Arts," but do many places do that?)

So given your vagueness about it, I'm guessing that it's in something totally useless, like 19th century Russian literature.

Am I right?

Signed,
A guy with a degree in 19th century Russian literature

Carolyn Hax: Funny, I can't remember whether I wrote that profile or someone else did, so I have no idea who was being vague.

Anyway. My major was American history and literature--not obscure or useless, just long. Kind of like 19th century Russian literature.

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Re: Lost Husband: As a husband to be, I know the feeling sometimes of being lost. I've been with my fiance for almost five years, living together for three. In the last year my life has been turned upside down with job woes, family illness and stress up the wazoo. There have been times when I want to be alone, much to the complaint of my fiance. I've reached the point that I have to do something because I am not cleaning up after myself, eating way too much comfort food and have hurt my fiance which is the last thing I wanted to do. I feel for both in this case and I hope he gets help like I am looking to do.

Carolyn Hax: Good good, and thanks for writing in. An unsolicited suggestion: In addition to whatever help you're getting, please make an effort to sprinkle some fiancee time in with your alone time. Even if it's as black-and-white as, "I'm going to walk for about an hour, but when I get back, wanna go out to dinner?" Starving your closest relationship at this point may seem like the easiest or most appealing way to get some rest, but it will likely only add to your fatigue.

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Washington, D.C.: What about the opposite? I have have caught up with acquaintences or co-workers in the past that I really couldn't tell they were pregnant (and would never ask) because they are somewhat heavier, and they offer that piece of information like it should be readily apparent, leaving me with an awkward feeling and no reply.

Carolyn Hax: Why not, "Congratulations! I'm always afraid to say something until I get the news directly."

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Carolyn, Love the chats and column! One of my good friends who now lives several states away had a baby last July. In every picture she sends me, the baby has a large red splotch on her forehead. My friend has not mentioned it at all and I haven't brought it up. I'd like to ask her about it (just to see if it's a permanent birthmark or something she thinks will eventually go away) but can't think of a way without it sounding like "What's up with that big splotch on your baby's head?" Suggestions?
Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: I'm as curious as the next person, but think about it for a sec. Why do you even want or need to know? Baby has a birthmark. Next.

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Bethesda, Md.: Do you know of any places to get guidance about a weird, infatuated guy? Having asked around, including people who claim to know him, I get answers that run the gamut, from "get a restraining order" to "get over it". The worst part is that he seems pretty good at manipulating people into doing things they shouldn't do -- helping him run into me, that kind of thing -- and that includes people who knew I don't reciprocate his interest.

Carolyn Hax: Best sources of info I can recommend are your local police domestic-violence dept (Montgomery County's has a great reputation, lucky you) and Gavin de Becker's "The Gift of Fear." Once informed (quickly, please), I think you'll feel more comfortable deciding whether this guy is a nuisance or a threat. Ultimately your judgment is the one you should trust.

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Austin, Tex.: Someone at work has been suggesting I see a "counselor" in our company's Employee Assistance Program. EAP help is not something I'd considered as particularly helpful, but I don't have money for therapy right now -- not even the extra dollars for a reduced amount through some community program. I'm on the ramen-for-meals budget plan and working two jobs. Do the peanuts have any experiences with EAP counseling they'd care to share?

Carolyn Hax: It's my understanding that EAP counseling is with regular practitioners, just offered through (and to some extent covered by) your employer. Please call the number and ask them to explain what your plan offers, for how long and for how much.

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Anonymous: Okay, let's substitute something for "stuffed animals." Something less inherently whimsical. Model plane building or something. "I love my girlfriend. She's obsessed with building model planes. Sometimes she pretends she's taking trips on them. She wants me to pretend this, too. It makes me uncomfortable so I asked her to put them away so I wouldn't have to deal with it anymore."

It's not about the talking animals, it's about his inability to say, "I'm not talking to the animals, but I understand it's your hobby." It's also about his desire to have her shelve something important to her just because he doesn't like it.

Bottom line? He may love her very much, but she needs to find someone who appreciates her and doesn't want her to change her habits for him.

If your husband said he didn't give a good goddamn about your shoes and asked you to wear flip flops all the time, would you get sad about it or would you go ahead and chuck them?

Carolyn Hax: If I were talking to my shoes in a baby voice, I hope I would take the flip-flop suggestion.

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Alexandria, Va.: Am I the only one this happens to: Someone suffers a loss -- death of a loved one, job loss, etc. -- and I say "I'm so sorry." And they say: "Why, it's not your fault." ??? It throws me for a loop, and I usually start to stutter "I... but... " and then wonder what alternate universe I am in. Am I supposed to respond when people say it's not my fault? This happens so often to me.

Carolyn Hax: Me too, and it's such a clumsy thing for people to say. The word has two widely understood meanings; you can be sorry something happened without claiming responsibility for it. So you can say some version of that, "I mean that I'm sorry it happened" you nitpicky socially stunted ingrate, or even "Of course not, you know what I mean"--or you can remind yourself the person is upset and shake it off.

Recipients of "I'm sorry": proper response is "Thank you," or "Thank you for saying so, I'm okay" if you prefer the cushion of extra syllables.

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Alexandria, Va.: Red splotch on baby: hemangioma (known as a strawberry birthmark). Should disappear within the first year, 95 percent disappear within the first five years of life. Not a big deal, the doctors won't do anything about it unless it interferes with vision or breathing. Surgery to remove it would leave a scar, but it won't scar if left to disappear on its own. My baby has one and I forget about it unless someone asks. It's ugly looking but just some errant blood vessels that rose to the surface of the skin during development.

Carolyn Hax: Cool rule of thumb on these, per J + P's pediatrician (P has one, but his isn't a blotch, so I didn't know it was the same thing): 10 percent vanish by 1 year, 20 percent by 2 years, 30 percent by 3 years, 40 percent by 4, onward through the ages to, I thought, roughly 10 percent that don't go away. I might be wrong on that last number since it disagrees with yours.

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For Austin, Tex.: While I hate to actually put this in writing, our company has an EAP also and very few of us trust the people there. We have had at least one documented case where an employee got in touch with the EAP only to have all of their information disseminated throughout the HR group. I know I shouldn't paint them all with the same brush, but after that experience (and the guy was only depressed, not suicidal or threatening) I would never use an EAP.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Happy story to come:

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Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Re: EAP question -- I used my EAP plan last year for a couple of months. Turned out that the counsellor I got (a real psychologist, not just someone with vague counselling training) was someone I clicked with really well, in a client-therapist sense, more than other therapists I'd seen previously. Be prepared, though, that since EAP programs cover a lot of employees with few resources and/or staff, your counselling may be limited to a number of sessions, or goal-oriented rather than long-term. I was impressed with the help I got, though. Doesn't hurt to try.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.

Anyone know how to check the privacy issue before one spills one's guts?

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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn, When do you give up on the "lost person?" I dated a wonderful guy seven months -- he said he saw a future with me. Without warning, he started withdrawing -- would hardly speak to me -- I asked if he wanted to continue the relationship, he said he didn't know what he wants. He said he has sabotaged relationships before by withdrawing. I urged him to get counseling -- called to see how he was -- he's in therapy. Counselor says he's incapable of an adult relationship. Boyfriend is like an ice cube now -- won't call or e-mail -- it's all gone. Do I just move on and shut and lock the door? I'm 40, he's 39. Now I feel like I need counseling to get beyond this train wreck -- it's been awful.

Carolyn Hax: I think you have to give up on the lost person when you've tried, but the L.P. hasn't reciprocated the effort. I'm sorry.

See next post for example of when not to give up.

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Land o' Stress: My partner was absolutely not herself for a while, and completely inaccessible due to stress. She lost three siblings she loved in a single year. She could deal with strangers but not with me, which made me jealous.

I finally blew up in a nontoxic way and we talkd about it, and she went to counseling. I had to wait another couple of months before she was really there again, but I knew there was light coming.

May be similar stress for the husband. Hope they can TALK soon.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, and glad things got better. Three siblings. Unthinkable.

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I'm so sorry: "Why? It's not your fault" sounds to me like a classic response of the temporarily depressed who are too sad to be thinking about how they come off to people. Unless it's spoken in a sincere-sounding puzzled tone, in which case, the person is just stupid.

Carolyn Hax: Idunno, I guess it's a matter of tone. Sometimes it has a dukes-up quality that almost makes you regret having tried to be nice. But I do think anyone genuinely traumatized has earned the benefit of the doubt. Thanks.

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Bethesda, Md.: I recently found out that I have a serious (but not life threatening) medical problem that will require surgery and a pretty long rehab. I'm reeling between denial (well, maybe if I put this off medical science will come up with an easy solution and I won't have to go through this) and fear/sadness. I'm trying to learn as much as I can so I can make informed decisions -- and I'm also trying to maintain my normal routine -- including exercise -- but most of the time I just want to hide and hope this will all go away. And I can't figure out how to tell people who need to know (my boss, for one). How can I deal with this better?

Carolyn Hax: Give yourself some time, a few days or a week, to get used to your news. Even the unthinkable (speaking of ...) becomes almost routine once it has had a chance to sit in your head for a while.

And, hey, not life-threatening! Way to go.

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Vienna, Va.: In response to Alonesville, I strongly resent, as a man, many of the changes that seem to happen to women after they give birth and which are not entirely involuntary. They gain weight, they seem to care only about the child and not the husband anymore (and sometimes, I think, get very bossy with the husband). And there is too little sex. Of course, I am aware of this and prefer women in relationships focused on romance, sex and companionship (without third-party-pooper intervention!).

Carolyn Hax: Peanut vote: real, or I'm being set up?

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Out There: For the EAP privacy issues: Law implemented last year (Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act, HIPAA) calls for prison terms for that kind of nonsense. HR people are taking it very seriously.

Carolyn Hax: Oh right. I even read the form the first of the 400 times I've received it. Thanks!

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Towson, Md.: I have a friendship question that doesn't seem to have a good answer. One of my best friends is in a tough spot, although she doesn't seem willing/able to recognize it, and I definitely don't want to point it out to her (although both my ex and my boyfriend think I should. Maybe it's a guy thing to do that?).

She caught her husband having sex with a former neighbor about two years ago and stuck with the marriage. She also has a daughter, only-child pre-teen, with a hyperactive sexuality and eating issues. To make it worse, my daughter doesn't want to play with her, and I've been hit on by her husband. Here's a friend who definitely needs to get out and play by herself more often, and now she wants to get together with some other people we know that I really, really don't like.

I've been avoiding going to her house and don't want to go out with these friends, yet I don't want her to think I'm avoiding HER. FWIW, I also like being alone on Friday nights, don't mind spending holidays alone when the kids are with the ex, and enjoy going out... when I like the people or am in "work mode." Do I suck it up and go out, do I tell her what's going on, do I just go home and let her think it's all about me?

Carolyn Hax: Can you decline group invitations and suggest you and she meet solo for dinner?

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Vienna is surely: setting you up.

Carolyn Hax: Surely!

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Alabama: Re: Vienna moron. Unfortunately, I think real.

Carolyn Hax: Except not surely.

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re: Vienna: ew.

Carolyn Hax: True either way, thanks.

Since I'm on the subject, though--I think anyone who harps on the weight or -temporarily- reduced sexual attention (YOU put on a pound a week for nine months, get a complete hormonal overhaul, pull a duckpin bowling ball out of your parts and see how you feel) deserves the ew, but I do think fathers have a legitimate complaint if and when new mothers suddenly forget they're half of a couple. Baby makes three, not two plus sperm donor. I say this to be fair, not to give Vienna any credit. Or worse, ammo.

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Urgent for Towson: Ummm... a pre-teen girl with sexuality issues and an eating disorder, a man who apparently hits on everything female in sight; I hate to say it, but am I the only one who sees potential child sexual assault here? Yuck yuck yuck maybe your friend has greater problems than she thought?

Carolyn Hax: I missed it, but I'm glad you didn't--even if it's not true, awareness of the possibility can't hurt. Thanks.

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Hospital-land: If you read the HIPPA information closely you will see that privacy in many cases is often diminished. It is a grave misconception to think otherwise, and many people are being lulled into a false sense of security here. I think it would still be worth asking the EAP person the specific guidelines concerning privacy, i.e. - what specifics are reported back to the employer? Who has access to my information? Etc.

Carolyn Hax: Good suggestion, thanks.

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Vienna moron : is real. No one wants to admit it, but some men really do feel this way.

Carolyn Hax: Still pouring in ...

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Re: Vienna, VA: You're being set-up. No human can be that disgustingly insensitive.

Carolyn Hax: This is fierce.

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Re: Vienna: Wow, Ethan Hawke reads Tell Me About It!;

Carolyn Hax: This is why I'm afraid of you guys.

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Washington, D.C.: I've put on weight lately. Um... a lot. I'm working on it. Well, trying to. I've started exercising. And I know how I should be eating, but it's harder than you'd think to break those bad habits. The problem is my husband. We never have sex. He's not attracted to me anymore. I feel like I have to beg him, and it leaves me feeling even worse, so of course, I reach for what makes me feel good - food. How do I get out of this?

Carolyn Hax: Bummer. Have you talked to him about how much his encouragement would benefit you? And eventually him?

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Re: HIPAA: Somebody translated that as "Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act." This is incorrect. The proper translation is "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act." In any event, I thought the whole idea was, the only thing to get back to the employer was that the service had been used, so the employer could check and see if it was worthwhile keeping as a benefit. The employer is not even supposed to know why it is used, whether it's for counseling, drug addiction, financial problems, etc.

Carolyn Hax: Proving once again that speed kills (and I am just too fast for my own good, I tell you). Thanks for the correction.

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Carolyn Hax: Sorry guys, just got inundated with posts and was trying to read through for different angles.

Getting late, though, so I'm going to go. Thanks all, especially Liz if she can still read this from under the pile, and I'll type to you next Friday.

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