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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 3, 2005; 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 Bæfers 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.

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Beach City, USA: Hi Carolyn,

Last summer, a good friend invited us to his beach house and at the end of the visit asked us for compensation. It was a pretty hefty sum ($300 for the weekend), and we were floored. We are respectful guests and took him out to dinner, brought wine, and cleaned up after ourselves. Am I being too sensitive about this or is this how things are done at the beach?

Well, he sent another invitation this year (in a mass e-mail), and we do not plan to go. But what is the best thing to say? We can politely decline or we can be a little more forceful and speak our piece. We do not believe in charging friends or family a fee and feel it's just not right. What say you? Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: Ick. You were not being too sensitive, you should not have been asked to pay anything unless you had been warned at the time of the invitation. (Hard to imagine a non-rude way to charge even then, though I suppose I wouldn't think twice if someone said, "I just need to ask you to chip in 50 bucks for the cleaning service.")

No matter how right you were to be floored, though, it still wouldn't be right for you to make a big statement this year. Just decline the invite as you would any other.

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Washington, D.C.: To the woman who won't get divorced: Think of the other person in that relationship. Let him go so at least one of you can move one with your lives.

Carolyn Hax: A whole other angle I could have (and maybe should have) taken, thanks.

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Midwest: One of my close friends is passionate about music. In her free time she writes songs, and the other day she had the opportunity to perform at a local coffee house. I went to support her, but I nearly feel asleep. She can sing just fine, but her songs are horrible. It was painful to listen to. When should you tell a friend that they really aren't as talented as they think they are?

Carolyn Hax: I don't think Britney Spears can sing well and I think her songs are horrible. Keep your review to yourself.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn. My boyfriend is a wonderful lover, and also very generous when it comes to back rubs, massages, etc. But he generally doesn't want me to touch him in the same ways. Sex yes, but no reciprocal massages, foot rubs. I don't want to seem ungrateful, WHO would pass up a "free" backrub, but it seems like there is something wrong with not giving back the pleasure. Any ideas?

Carolyn Hax: 1. Ask him what he wants in return.

2. Unless it's unspeakable or unconscionable, DO IT. You don't want this one getting away.

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Anyplace, USA: I'm not a drinker so I'm not into the bar scene. Any other ideas for a place to meet girls, or guys if you're a girl, for potential relationships?

Carolyn Hax: Everywhere else. Seriously. I know this may seem singularly unhelpful, especially when just about everyone has a pretty rollicking failure tale from hitting on the wrong person in the wrong venue, but for every one of those there's also a couple who's meeting was a tale of pure randomness. Live your life as a life and not as a meeting opportunity.

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For Beach Invitee: Not only should they decline the invite, they should (tactfully and sweetly) spread the word to the other recipients of that email that there will be a hefty sum charged for the beach trip. At the very least, they'll be doing a kindness to the other invitees so they aren't hit with an expensive surprise. And maybe as a bonus, this guy's pettiness can be exposed.

Carolyn Hax: I don't know how I feel about this. If I saw a good friend on the circulation list, I wouldn't hesitate to fire off a friendly warning about the $300. But no matter how rude the blind billing was, I would sleep a lot better at night if I wrote to the guy directly to say that if he plans to ask his guests to chip in again, it would be helpful to put that in the e-mail--just so that no one's surprised.

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Rockville, Md.: Dear Carolyn,

Online only please. My husband's father is a lifelong manic depressive. When my husband was growing up, he would always say things to him like that the world was a really horrible place and that he regretted bringing my husband and his sister into the world, presumably because he believed that people are bad and more people in the world is bad news. Recently he came to our house for a short visit. He met his only grandson, our 19-month-old, for the first time. He said to us that when we told him we were having a baby, he despaired, but then he thinks that the world is probably not a worse place because of our son's presence in it. I was dumbfounded, especially since I was unaware of him telling his children similar things when they were young. On the other hand, knowing it does not make me more sympathetic. I think it was a very rude, mean and unloving thing to say to us, especially considering he was guest in our home. What makes me the most angry is that my husband laughs this off and attributed it to his father being a curmudgeon. Who is right?

Carolyn Hax: I think it was a very rude, mean and unloving thing to say to you, whether he was a guest in your home or not. But he has established himself over a lifetime to be an utterer of things rude, mean and unloving. So I also think your husband has the right idea: Expect the man to be himself.

With expectations thus lowered, you can laugh it off too--hello, see the survival tactic?--instead of setting yourself up to be re-offended at every encounter with him. That just sounds exhausting. And, unfair: Your husband has (apparently) found a way to bear the virtually unbearable. Let him have his way.

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Toronto, Canada: Today's column resonated with me as I have been separated from my husband for one month. Our fights got physical and I have no intention of ever pursuing the relationship again. I'm 26 and I feel this was a learning experience for me.

However, sometimes, I get a rush of melancholy when I reflect on how I could have made this huge mistake and possibly ruined the rest of my life. I fear how others will view me, especially since in our community women are discouraged from leaving their marriage.

It is not so much the loss of my husband that I miss but almost a loss of innocence.

Is this feeling normal?

Carolyn Hax: Yes, though you do veer toward the self-loathing end of normal, and that paired with the abuse suggests you'd benefit from good counseling.

It's also normal for the feelings you have now to change, spike, plummet, mutate, fade, evolve--you're still in the very early stages of the whole process. What starts out feeling like a loss of innocence can make you sob inconsolably in month one and uplift you in month three as it changes to relief, and give you confidence in year three as it grows to resemble an education. Not all losses of innocence are created equal, but anectodally I've seen that emotional ones like yours leave very few people wishing they could go back to their pre-trauma selves. Use this to get to know yourself better.

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Springfield, Va.: Carolyn, every State in the USA lets you get divorced after, at most, two years involuntary separation. So the letter writer's husband is free to divorce her if he so chooses.

Carolyn Hax: Without her signature on the papers? Where's a lawyer when you need one.

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Pittsboro, N.C.: Hi Carolyn.

I'm getting married in September. It will be a simple garden ceremony, and we're very much looking forward to it. The problem is that I have more family than he does, which is making invitations difficult. For the wedding itself it doesn't really matter, but we're planning a barbecue at our new house the night before in lieu of a rehearsal dinner. If we just invite family, it will be my 20 aunts, uncles and cousins, and his one brother (his parents are boycotting the wedding, for reasons to stupid to mention). He would like to invite enough friends to make up his side of the guest list. This seems fair, but I'm concerned it would make the party feel like a family reunion for me, and a fraternity party for him. If I also invite some of my friends, he'll add to his list to even it out and we'll end up with 75 people at our house the night before the wedding. Ack! I don't want to ditch the idea, but I don't want my fiance to feel short-changed and I don't want to pile on my own stress. This really shouldn't be so complicated -- it was intended to be informal and fun. Any suggestions?

Carolyn Hax: It isn't that complicated. The friends of his who have essentially assumed the place of his family should be invited to the barbecue. The point is to broaden your definition of family to ensure that your fiance feels he is among his own as you are among yours, and the mistake is to count beans (two parents, two friends; two aunts, two more friends ... bleah). The whole family/frat thing, meanwhile, is fruit of the overthinking tree. Just invite and let live.

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Quitting: I have to quit my job today and I'm scared to death. I've been trying to get up the nerve to do this for three weeks and I have chickened out every time. Today is my drop dead date. Any words of wisdom?

Carolyn Hax: Nope, because, I have no idea why you're quitting or why you're scared. That and the usual reasons.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm a die hard liberal, and my job reflects this. I don't bring up politics unless asked, and then I simply state my beliefs without trying to convert anyone. Last weekend I met some friends for dinner, including one person that I don't know well, and he was obviously trying to bait me politically. For example, saying "we all know that liberals are liars" then laughing and professing that he's somewhere in the middle and was joking of course. He seemed to be trying to goad me, but always in a "lighthearted" (aka passive agressive in my view) way and I wasn't sure how to respond.

Carolyn Hax: Respond the way you would any other time someone was making an ass of himself. Just smile tolerantly and change the subject.

BTW, even when asked, there's really no need to state your beliefs, simply or otherwise. Assuming you'd rather not get into it.

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Cyberspace: Do you think it's possible to have a family staying over in somewhat confined quarters not get in a few conflicts?

Carolyn Hax: Depends on how long all the clowns will be crammed in the car.

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Question about today's column: "It's called growing up. And then out, and soft and spotty, and there you have it."

I don't understand that second sentence. Sounds vaguely like potty training, ick. What did you mean?

Carolyn Hax: I guess lunch isn't an issue now.

Bodies, as we age, get wide and squishy and spotty. Unless you see something different at your pool's water aerobics class.

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Rota, Spain: Carolyn, I'm a lawyer. I'm still at work. At 6:30 on a Friday night in Spain. Gotta love the military.

In every state, you can't force someone to stay married. If one spouse wants out badly enough, they can do it. The only issue is that it will take much longer and be very expensive if only one spouse wants a divorce and the other spouse is committed to not ending the marriage. Things can get ugly, but the courts will end the marriage eventually.

Carolyn Hax: Ah, but you are in Spain. And it's Friday night. Thanks for the ... not 2 cents, at your projected civilian billable rate. Hold on ...

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Carolyn Hax: Let's call it $12.49 (assuming about 3 min at $250/hr.).

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Portland, Maine: Here's a lawyer. Yes, he could divorce her without her name on the papers. It would happen more quickly with her agreement, but he could file a divorce petition in court and eventually a judge would hear the case, grant the divorce, and divide up the property. Once a petition is filed, the spouse usually has an incentive to try to reach an agreement and speed things up.

Carolyn Hax: Another, for backup, since it's possible neither of you is a lawyer but you do conveniently say the same thing--and, to quote Whatsisface (played by Sean Connery) in "The Untouchables": "Who would claim to be that, who was not?"

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For Quitting: I don't know the circumstances at your job, but when I had to quit a job with a great boss and I was out of my skin over it, I simply walked into her office with my letter and said, "I'm really nervous, though I know I shouldn't be, but ..." At that point she laughed, told me to take a breath and sit down and be out with it. It was much easier to start off that way then trying to be ultra poised and formal and obviously failing.

Carolyn Hax: Great advice for (almost) all difficult blurtings. Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: For the guy who got goaded for being liberal, there really isn't a way for a lot of us to not state our beliefs, because it is what we do.

I have always worked for very well-know liberal groups. When I am asked what I do for a living, my politics become really obvious. I then have to deal with all of the baiting and debating, which sometime is OK, other times is really annoying depending on my mood.

Generally, I always get to the point where I say, "I do this for a living and I have for the past 15 years. I believe in it and have dedicated my life to it. While I am sure you believe differently and perhaps with good reason, I promise you that you won't change my mind. So, how about those Mets?

So I don't think it is so easy not to say what your beliefs are when you do it for a living. Especially in DC, where we all know what your org. or boss is and what they believe and therefore what you believe.

Carolyn Hax: Good point. But I still believe what I was saying, I just need to be more clear. You're right that a lot of jobs all but announce your politics. When asked about them, though, you can always say something along the lines of, "Sorry, I'm off duty," or, just cut straight to the Sox.

That said, your long version is great for someone who doesn't have strong enough social sensors to know when to let it drop.

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Springfield, Va.: How rude is it to commit to a space in beach house and then decide not to go? I am paying for a $2K a week house and got two extra bedrooms for my sis and her family and now she has to help someone move for her church. The dates haven't changed from when I asked six months ago. I can fill the bedrooms with other members of the family. I just think it is rude and am trying to figure out if I should just leave it alone or let her know I'm not happy (which will turn into a BIG THING)

Carolyn Hax: Treat it the way a friendly B and B might. If a guest were to back out on the rooms and the proprieter couldn't fill them, then the guest would have to pay up. If another paying guest was in line for the rooms, no harm done.

Obviously what your sister did is rude, but making an issue of it on principle alone doesn't seem to be in -your- best interests. And, maybe there are others with whom you'd rather spend your week ...?

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California: Is it being too much of a jerk to stop being friends with someone because you still have romantic feelings for them and it's too hard being just friends?

Carolyn Hax: Only if you vanish without explanation, which would indeed make you a jerk. State your reasons, then vanish. That would make you brave and human.

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Tenn Law: I'm a lawyer in Tennessee. In this state, you cannot force an innocent spouse to divorce you IF there are minor children. If there are no minor children, you can force a divorce after the papers have been filed for two years.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks muchly. Once again, I am posting these all unverified, but I think the possible variations matter.

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Alexandria, Va.: To the quitter... er, resigner. I've quit several jobs and accepted a couple of resignations. It's business -- people quit. This is a much bigger deal to you than them. Very few people are so integral to the organization that their resignations are met with anything other than polite disappointment and best wishes. Then again, who knows -- maybe your name is Bill Gates and I'm totally off base. Also, even if they do behave badly, you're quitting. It'll be over in two weeks.

Carolyn Hax: Unless they ask you to leave now (I'm swiping this from another poster who had a bad quitting experience).

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Arlington, Va.: I'm 28, and am having some "when am I going to get married and start having kids" issues. Made worse by the reports I keep reading about women's fertility dropping at 35, and by my younger sister's wedding. I'm in a wonderful relationship with the man I want to marry, but we're not ready yet (we've only been together a few months, and he's younger than me)... how do I manage my internal and external pressures to marry and have kids, so I don't put those pressures on our relationship?

Carolyn Hax: I wish I could connect you to a network of people who made their decisions for reasons other than confidence in their partner. Then again, I probably don't have to--how many married people do you know well, and how many of them would you describe as relaxed and happy, vs. making the best of it, or angry, or quietly desperate, or in the separation process, or toughing it out for the kids? And of the relaxed-and-happys, how many aren't spouse no. 1?

I don't mean this to be as cynical as it sounds. I actually believe marriage and babies produce crankiness/contentment in about the same proportions as, say, careers do. It's just that romanticizing institutions as complicated as these two is a great way to guarantee that there's nothing romantic about either. Be yourself, make your best choices for your reasons, see where they take you. That's the best any of us can do.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Carolyn: I was concerned this week by advice given (not by you) to an obviously abused women to seek couples counseling. This is not good advice, and potentially dangerous. If the woman is being abused then counseling can exacerbate the situation, as the women may say things that the abuser will later use against her.

Better that help is sought individually.

peaceathome.org and vaasa.org give excellent advice to people who unfortunately find themselves in this situation.

Carolyn Hax: Another risk is of the abuser's using BS to fake out the therapist and gaslight the victim, further undermining the confidence that is crucial to getting out. Thanks for the PSA.

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Alexandria, Va.: Me again... Sorry: I didn't mean to minimize the quitting thing. And I know that some people do have horror stories. I was literally shaking the first time I quit, so I know it's stressful. But I do think that most organizations behave professionally and I hope the resigner works for one of those.

Carolyn Hax: No apologies necessary. I was just piggybacking to get in more advice per square inch.

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Bridezilla vs. Momzilla: Okay, here's the deal. Momzilla is super narcistic and controlling and completely inhibitive to any growth (read maturing). Example: 30-year-old younger brother still has Mumzy paying rent and car payments, etc.

I'm engaged to a fantastic guy and we were planning an October wedding, until Momzilla pulled some of the financial rug out from under our feet. Deadbeat brother and girlfriend of four months are now pregnant, Momzilla asks me how much she said she was going to give us for the wedding because now she wants to help bro -- even though it's not traditionally up to the groom's parents -- with a wedding that may or may not happen, and if it does, not until NEXT year.

Okay, I've gotten over the initial shock of losing a chunk of our budget and fiance and I have done some rearranging of plans. But now I'm just so disgusted with Momzilla (that lovely thoughtless comment was just the latest in a LONG series) that I don't even want her present at our wedding. I love my fiance's folks and would regret not having them there. He thinks we need to be fair -- both sets of parents or none. What say you and the 'nuts?

Carolyn Hax: You have as many options as you have ideas, and whichever one best honors your marriage and least resembles an act of Mommy hatred is the one you'll feel best about 30 years from now, when you (I hope) are grateful to your mom for not coddling you into submission the way she apparently has your brother. (Whoo. Breathe.)

So. Eloping? Planning frugally? Waiting another year? Pushing it up to next weekend? To you, it's really just a financial rug, not even an essential one, so don't lose sight of it.

And, not to excuse your mom, but these things are usually more complicated than they appear. As wronged as you feel, you might not be able to see how guilty your mom feels, how deep-down responsible for her son's frailties, and how your money is going to him as her best attempt at making it up to him.

Not that this is smart or fair, if true, and not that's even true--it's just a guess and I could be way off. But I'm throwing it out there as something at least to consider, b/c it's not an unusual guilt.

Last thing, I swear: I can see where your fiance is coming from but I'm not sure fairness is the goal here. Rightness for your situation sounds like a better bet, and, again, that can take many forms.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn: Question for you. I started dating a guy about two months, and things seem to be going fairly well thus far. I haven't dated anyone in a couple of years (since I finished college), which has given me some quality time to figure myself out, adjust to living in the "real world," etc. In these couple of years, I've discovered that I really like my alone time. Often, I like sitting on the couch, in my jammies, watching crap TV. Or going to Target, by myself. Working out, napping, reading; things I don't need to put on my calendar. And this guy, who is very nice and treats me incredibly well, wants to spend time with me. Lots of it. He doesn't bully me into hanging out with him, and he's very understanding of when I say "no" to activities (I've tried to explain this whole needing "me" time thing), but nearly every day there's an offer of some way to hang out. And I hate having to say "no" so often, but there are days when I want to come home from work, and be at home, and not be scheduled. Don't think I don't blow him off constantly; we hang out probably 2-3 times a week, and I really enjoy the time we do spend together. I just can't agree to everything he offers, because I feel like I'd go insane.

Am I out-of-line or being selfish for wanting to do nothing, by myself, sometimes? Is this an early indicator of incompatibility with this guy? And on a grander scale, what does this say of my ability to ever be seriously involved? I'd like to be able to think that at some point, I could live with or be married to somebody (not saying this guy, eek, it's only been two months), but I'm not sure what this recent discovery about myself says to that end. Here's hoping you can lend some wisdom thanks!

Carolyn Hax: Wanting alone time is normal, even healthy; his asking all the time could mean you aren't compatible, but it could also mean he doesn't mind being turned down and is happy to try for a yes; your feeling pressured by his constant invitations, despite his grace at handling rejection, is something you need to bring up with him, since it's all part of the process of adjusting to someone (or figuring out that you'll never adjust well enough); the more comfortable you get both with your preferences in life and verbalizing them to mates, the more likely you'll find a mate who is happy to let you stay home alone in your jammies watching crap tv while he plays in a softball league--or whom you don't mind having around while you lounge and watch.

Short answer, don't marry anyone till you're 30.

(Now fastening the chin strap on my helmet.)

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I Cheated: Wow. I said it (or typed it). We are living together, "committed" (until I did this!), sex had gotten lost in the shuffle of his depression/job loss... And now that I did it I realized this was just me not dealing with our real issues.

So should I tell him? I've never lied to him, but not telling this (and hoping a relevant question comes my way on the subject) would be an omission, not a lie. I don't want to hurt him, but of course I already did. Maybe now I just want to save my own ass.

Carolyn Hax: How? What are you trying to save (and say) at this point? I'm not going to give you a tell or don't tell, because I think you need to figure out what you really want, including what you were trying to avoid admitting to yourself when you cheated.

I hope even this isn't a leading suggestion, because there are a lot of things that could underlie your mistake--a fear of breaking up with a guy who's already down is the obvious, but there's also, just for eg, the not-so-obvious sense of helplessness or disappointment in yourself for not being able to rescue someone you love. Or it could be anger at him for making your life so much harder, anger you're not dealing with b/c you feel awful for being anrgy at a victim.

Again, these are just examples, and by no means are they a complete list or a list of excuses. The point is they're the kind of difficult feelings that can come with having a depressed partner and that can result in an act of blazing oops.

And they're the feelings best dealt with -before- you lay them in the lap of someone who doesn't need to hear about them just to make you feel better. Decide whether you're staying or going, decide what yo can live with, decide (as well as you can) what he needs from you, then make the tell-or-not call.

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Richmond, Va.: I have a hair situation: been going to my stylist for 3-plus years and she does a relatively good job. Last time I went, she was on vacation, so another stylist at the same salon cut my hair instead... and did a FABULOUS job. What's the etiquette? Can I switch stylists within the same salon after a three-year relationship? Should I just start over with a new salon altogether? I feel like I'm cheating on her, but I can't go back to her now that I know she doesn't achieve maximum hair potential.

Carolyn Hax: After that one I needed a hair situation, but now I see this is just about hurt feelings, too, and only padded by hair. Feh.

Is this one of those cases where you can say to the old stylist that you've been happy with her work but are trying something new for a while? And first time you aren't happy with the new one, you go back?

I type this knowing I would be checking out other salons.

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Bad quitting story: Aww, c'mon, post that quitting-gone-wrong story. It's rainy out and I just stepped in a huge puddle. I could use a chuckle.

Carolyn Hax: It's not a chuckle, really, unless you thrive on others' misfortune, but I'll post it so you know I'm not holding out on you.

Now I wish I had a chuckle for you, or a personal misfortune. A snapshot of my hair today would accomplish both, if I only had one handy.

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For the quitter: Be prepared to be asked to leave today, too. Happened to me, but fortunately anything that already belonged to me when I got there (like contacts) I had taken home over the prior week. The jerk of a manager sat and watched me pack my desk up and questioned everything I put in it. I so happy to not have to stay another two weeks!

Carolyn Hax: As promised. Thanks fer sharing, and congratulations on your bonus two weeks.

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I-n-n-c-o-m-m-m-i-n-g......: Darn. I'm turning 30 in couple months.

I thought I had another 5 years or so. Poor planning on my part, I guess.

Any single soon-to-be 30 peanuts in the same boat? Maybe we can save ourselves and a mass wedding. Carolyn can play Reverend Moon!;

Carolyn Hax: Didn't I say "at least 30"? If I didn't I should have. Actuarially speaking, you have another 45 years or so.

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Find out when your (former) stylist's day off is!;: Just go when your now-former stylist isn't there and the new one is. If your schedule can change, so can your stylist!; :-D

Carolyn Hax: I thought of that, too, but it felt so ... so. More importantly, wouldn't she figure it out anyway?

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Re: want a new stylist: My favorite salon (in Silver Spring) has a big sign on the wall that says (paraphrased here): Want to change stylists? go for it, it's part of our business. Sure helped get rid of the guilt when I saw that the stylist 2 chairs down did great hair. Of course, I scheduled my first appt with her on my old stylist's day off.

Carolyn Hax: A stylistic emancipation proclamation, thanks.

I am aware this risks trivializing the real one, but I feel safe in my protective headgear.

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For Arlington, Va.: ...and, take those fertility studies with a grain of salt. lots of women have kids post-35. do things on your schedule, not when society/your family/co-workers/etc. think you should.

Carolyn Hax: And some women struggle with fertility problems in their 20s and others have three kids in 23 months starting when they're 35. Use the studies only to remain realistic about the body's limits, vs. driven by them.

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Boston, Mass.: Help Carolyn!

Any advice to getting over being totally "Don Juaned" by a good friend of many years who I happened to meet in a different environment, different country, different city... on vacation. I was completely overwhelmed by his romancing and plans for "our future" (which I poo-poo'ed of course, as we were just getting to know eachother in a different light), anyway, just returned home three days ago and not one word from the guy -- who's at least always been a reliable and considerate friend in the past always there for me in times of trouble, etc... its devastating -- it would have been easier if he had been a total stranger. I don't understand. How can I stop tearing myself up for being such a fool? I've written two friendly emails and no reply.

Carolyn Hax: Wouldn't you much rather be a fool--for being willing to believe in a person's goodness--than a cynic who thinks believers in goodness are fools?

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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn -

I was diagnosed with Lupus last week, and am feeling lost, scared, angry, etc.

Do you or any of the peanuts know of resources that may be helpful? I'm overwhelmed and don't even know where to begin.

Carolyn Hax: I'm sorry, that's hard news. I would start with the doctor who diagnosed you--presumably either a specialist or someone who can refer you to a specialist. And once you locate a practice with experience in treating lupus, call to ask about support services. My experience has been that once you find even one informed source, you'll have tapped into the entire network of informed people. I also think you'll find relief in that. Till then, hang in there, and use this as an excuse to be particularly good to yourself.

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Drop Dead Date: Advice for any job-quitting situation is not to burn bridges. Be direct but polite. You never know where you'll be down the road, no matter how scared you are or your reasons for leaving.

Carolyn Hax: Drop Dead Date made me think this was for a different thread. Oh well. Sound suggestion regardless, thanks.

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Anonymous: My father sexually abused me when I was a child. I told my mother, but she didn't do anything about it. The abuse immediately stopped upon my mother's suicide when I was 15. I left home for good at 17. After years of emotional turmoil, I'm okay now and have come to terms with it. I rarely see my father and only when it's absolutely necessary, a family funeral or other occasion when my absence would be misinterpreted by others in the family who I would not want to hurt. When I do see him, I'm an emotional wreck for weeks after. Here's the problem. Aunt Gladys (my father's sister) told me recently that whenever my father comes to visit, almost weekly, her little girl, not quite four years old, runs into her room, crawls under the bed and refuses to come out until Dad leaves. I couldn't have lived with myself if I didn't tell her what he'd done to me. She refuses to believe me. I want to confront my father and demand that he leave little Barbara alone and seek help for himself. But I'm afraid.

Carolyn Hax: Please talk to someone trained to handle these situations--Rape, Incest and Abuse National Network (RAINN) is an excellent place to start. Now, now, now. 800-656-4673.

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Beach City: I think it would be acceptable to answer the invitation as a question: "Thanks for the invite. Could you let us know if you need a contribution this year?" How about that?

Carolyn Hax: Fixes one problem, but then you'd still have the other problem of having to spend time at the beach with someone who thinks it's okay to charge people for his hospitality. But for fixing the one problem, I like it.

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Carolyn Hax: Oh dearie dear look at the time. Bye, thanks, see you here again soon.

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Re: Lupus: Quick email for the woman with lupus...I also have lupus...and 3 kids, a full time job, and a (relatively) normal life. Get a good rheumatologist, get good info on the web from trusted sources. There'll be bad days, but also lots of good ones.

Carolyn Hax: One source coming next, thanks:

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Washington, DC: For the poster with lupus, check out The Lupus Foundation of America: http://www.lupus.org/. My best friend was diagnosed with lupus years ago. Medication has done wonders, and she's now pregnant with her first child. Don't worry, you'll find the treatment that's right for you. Best of luck!;

Carolyn Hax: Lots of people wrote in with this one. Thanks.

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New Stylist: I feel your pain. It is hard to change. I left my stylist of 6 years for another girl at the salon. I felt so guilty everytime I saw him. But to be perfectly fair to myself he gave me an unrequested mullet.

Good hair is worth the uncomfortable feelings but I was sure happy when my new stylist changes salon's so I don't have to see the ex anymore.

Carolyn Hax: I'm posting this just so I'm not the only one who gets to read "unrequested mullet."

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