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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 5, 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.

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

The transcript follows.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn...My old high school boyfriend and started seeing each other again 8 months ago. At first, it was clearly a "friends with benefits" situation, but we recently vacationed in Hawaii together, so I feel as if it's progressing. The main problem is, he lives in Connecticut, I live in DC, and he has obligations in CT that keep him there every weekend, so we only see each once a month, if that. He has also told me that he sends me "consistent mixed signals." I've completely fallen for him, but at the same time I'm frustrated that he doesn't seem like he wants this to work. I've tried to talk to him about it, but he doesn't get it, and it just makes me feel worse. I'm thinking of telling him that I love him too much to continue like this, and just "breaking up" with him. Do you see another alternative?

Carolyn Hax: There are always alternatives, which is why it's so important to concentrate on your own feelings and your own situation and your own set of facts. Including whether you're actually getting mixed signals from him or whether you're expecting too much from a long-distance obligation-laden guy or whether these differences even matter when either way you're unhappy. In other not-really-advisory words, if you feel you need to step away, then step away. Just make sure you mean it and are ready to keep your word, and it's not a sub- or semi-conscious test of his feelings.

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Vienna, Va.: My girlfriend has been living with me this summer (a good 3 months). She heads back down to finish her DVM in a couple of weeks, and there's a little bit of me that's almost excited to see her go. It's been absolutely wonderful and we've both learned that we can live with each other in the future. Should I be mad at myself for getting excited about my upcoming "release"?

Carolyn Hax: Of course not, you feel what you feel (and even halves of the most devoted couples will do a little dance at some precious alone time).

This should be helpful not only if you want to feel normal, but also if you want to think clearly about your future with this girl. Feeling guilty might make you try to rationalize away your excitement, and that just screws everything up.

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Potomac, Md.: Where is the line between banter and flirtation? I have a business acquaintance who is quite charming and whose company I enjoy, but our lunches and emails are getting progressively more friendly. We're both married, so though I enjoy his company a lot, I need some guidelines here. He's fun and exciting, but I don't want this to get out of hand.

Carolyn Hax: If you wouldn't want your spouse to read what you're about to write or witness what you're about to do, then don't write it or do it. Certainly some people can push things a little more with a clear conscience, since flirting can be one harmless way to remind yourself you're alive, but that's only if you trust yourself completely to keep it harmless. Since you don't and you're looking for guidelines, then you use the guidelines (and if those don't work, put the colleague down and back away slowly).

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Waynesboro, Va.: Dear Carolyn, How do you deal with someone who overreacts to the little things? My boyfriend got angry when I called a trip to pick out a tux for his friend's wedding, shopping. The implication was that I called him feminine for even suggesting that he was going shopping. Of course I wasn't doing that, shopping is what I call going to pick something up from a store. But he insisted that I was insulting him. How should I deal with this in the future? Should I let him overreact and apologize to him or stand my ground?

Carolyn Hax: Oh my goodness. In the future, you decide whether a whining, screaming little toddler constitutes suitable boyfriend material.

Oh, what the hell, do it now.

Seriously. What's there to like about being with someone who responds to "little things" with a temper tantrum? Are you going to get married and move to the land of Nothing Ever Goes Wrong? Are you going to stay on earth and just cave in every time? And where will your soul be after even a few years of this?

Get out of this thing while you still can. I'd even suggest a call to 1-800-799-SAFE before you do. Between his temper and your hesitation about standing up for yourself, I see potential for trouble here. Not to scare you, just to prepare you.

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Confused, Md. (from last week): Carolyn,

First, I wanted to thank you for your advice. My wife has agreed to go to counseling. first for herself, then we will enter marriage counseling.

Secondly, I wanted to respond to a comment someone made re: infertility. We know about adoption. We even went as far as to consider foster care. Couple dealing with infertility know the alternatives that are out there. But until you experience it, you won't understand what it is like to not a baby that is not your genetic material. Thank you.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for checking back in, and that's good news about the counseling. People are really pulling for you.

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Yeehaw!; Alabama: Carolyn,

Why didn't you suggest (in today's column) that it sounds like her husband cheating on her again?; I think you tiptoed around it, but you didn't actually say it. Suddenly her husband madly in love with her?;!; Yeah, right!; (neon flashing signs!;)

Carolyn Hax: Yes, maybe. And maybe not. This is someone who has seen her boyfriend/fiance/husband cheat on her plenty, putting her in a far better position than I am to read possible signs that he's cheating. Which is why I said what I said: Run his new behavior through the laugh meter, and read the results for yourself.

Besides, more infidelity isn't the only credible possibility here. Could be he sensed her alienation and that got his attention--i.e., he's a chase-the-unattainable kind of guy, and she finally became unattainable, and so now he wants her. It could also be a third or fourth or 19th possibility, which is why scrutiny, from her, is a lot more promising than a bunch of assumptions from me.

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Privacy: You wrote: "If you wouldn't want your spouse to read what you're about to write or witness what you're about to do, then don't write it or do it."

Is one not entitled to a degree of privacy, even from one's spouse?; Must every thought and action be shared?; Without reasonable boundaries, even the best marriage can become suffocating.

Carolyn Hax: Who said the husband had to read or witness? I meant it as a mental exercise for her to judge the propriety of her behavior.

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Response to Waynesboro: Of course you should stand up for yourself. This isn't necessarily a break-up offense. If he says "I'm angry" and you say "I didn't mean to make you angry, and I think you're overreacting," he may back down. You'll never know until you try.

Carolyn Hax: Take the anger out of it, and his complaining that the word "shop" feminizes him is in itself a breakup offense. At best his brain's made of rocks.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn & co. - Hope you can give me some ideas... my close friend's mom passed away this week, after a long, painful struggle with cancer. She'll be back home from the memorial services this weekend and I wanted to send her something that might take her mind off things for a bit or at least make her smile. Maybe bright flowers, or a massage gift card?; I don't want to trivialize her loss of course, but think she might need something. Any thoughts?; (especially if you think the whole idea is inappropriate) Thanks!;

Carolyn Hax: I think giving her something that shows you're thinking of her is not only appropriate but also kind and thoughtful. I will caution you against the whole idea of getting her mind off things, though. For one thing, it's not going to happen. This is the death of a parent, not a bad day at work, and major loss has a way of making things like a little pampering seem trivial and silly, not relaxing and distracting. There's also the chance she'd love and welcome it, of course, but my point is it's really thorny territory so you need to choose your gesture carefully. This is why bringing dinner, for example, is a safer bet--people need to eat and so you can give her the pampering you want through providing a needed service. Or even just visiting and giving her a hug--then flowers would be nice if you don't' want to come empty-handed.

The other thing is, she probably doesn't want to get her mind off things. Thinking of her mom will be painful at first but even then it'll be a comfort, and in time comfort will overtake pain and she won't need to think about it so much. She needs to do this at her own pace. That doesn't take friends like you out of it, it just means you need to follow her lead.

Last thing. I put a lot of cautions into this, but it might be helpful to remember also that you mean well and you care about your friend, which is more important than doing and saying everything perfectly.

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Baltimore, Md.: Hi Carolyn,

I'm glad that you're back. I have a question and I'll try to keep it brief:

A little over a month ago a co-worker (of whom I'm very fond) kind of tricked me into going out on a blind date with a friend of hers she'd mentioned casually before. After getting over the initial shock of being "set up," I couldn't be mad at her because she's so cool. And he's fantastic. We talked so long on that first "date," that the restaurant had to throw us out to get ready for the dinner hour. We were both in and out of town for the next couple of weeks on work-related travel but he called every day, we had great talks, saw each other whenever we were both in town and -when our schedules settled- we began to see each other quite regularly. It has been a month and I'm completely smitten. And afraid that I'm going to sabotage this by over analyzing it. He's funny, cultured, smart, extremely well-educated, unbelievably attentive, great conversationalist, just my kind of handsome, very sexy, really interesting... the list goes on.

And I can't avoid the unsavory sensation that, while he does really like me and is genuinely interested, he is overcompensating to prove to himself that he is better than he was in his past when it comes to having a relationship. Writing it out like that it sounds really stupid. He has a job about which he is really passionate, it takes up a lot of is time, he travels quite a bit. And, apparently, this has been a problem with a lot of women he's been with. He's mentioned this, not extensively, but with some detail. I just can't help but feel that some of his "full-court press," is less about how enchanting I am and more about how he wants to view himself when it comes to women.

What's wrong with me? Is this some hidden pocket of low self-esteem I can only discover when faced with the most fantastic man I've ever met in my life? Is this just the way men over 36 become -no more game playing or feigning slight disinterest? (I just turned 29, he's 38) Or am I on to something here? And if so, how would I bring this up while making it clear that I enjoy him and his company immensely?

Carolyn Hax: That's brief?

Just being hateful--it's a really good question and needs the detail.

I think you need to be careful about blaming yourself for these suspicions you have. That's so often the first step in dismissing what eventually turn out to be very well-founded doubts and suspicions. You have a set of facts before you, and you have a brain and feelings, and all those together could be telling you, wisely, to give this thing a lot more time before you decide what it all means.

Not only will that give you a chance to see if he is in fact enchanted by you, and not just by the idea of not getting dumped again, but it also will relieve you of the burden of having to say anything about it to him. After "a little over a month," he probably isn't even sure himself what he feels about you and why. Keep enjoying his company and see what the skeptical little voices say along the way.

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Condolence Gifts: I've had good luck with giving gifts that are both completely unexpected and useful. After our neighbor's mother died, we bought a bat house (which our friend had be talking about buying for awhile). It broke the mood and allowed our friend to laugh. Now we fondly refer to the gift as the Jane Smith Memorial Bathouse after her mother.

And she bought us the Fred Lee Memorial Lawn Bench when my grandfather died.

Carolyn Hax: That's a really great idea--reaching back into your memory for something the person had long been wanting to get but hadn't had the time/money/excuse to get it. It's that kind of thoughtfulness that's truly unexpected, not the gift--even when the gift is a bat house. (Nicely done, by the way.)

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn...why is it that to get a man's attention a woman often has to resort to extreme measures? I tell my boyfriend several times that I would like him to attend a very important event to me and that it means a great deal to me. Boyfriend agrees, but then finds out a very exciting football game is also happening that day and starts to waffle. I have to get mad, raise my voice and pitch a fit before he says 'ok, I didn't realize how important it was. I'll go'. Why does it have to escalate for the importance to be realized, when I know for a fact (really, I do) I emphasized it when I originally asked him. ERRRRRRRR...... And now I know he would really rather be at the game.

Carolyn Hax: Then don't get mad, raise your voice and pitch a fit. It may get the guy's attention, but, read your own words--it's not attention you want. The attention you want is for him to understand that this is important to you and to want to give it to you for that reason alone. Fine. Nothing to apologize for there. So when you invite him, you tell him this is really important to you, and when he blows you off in favor of doing something important to him, you say this to him, calmly, voice not raised. "I'm really hurt that you're not going, because I said this was important to me, and I wanted you to want to come with me for that reason alone."

Then, if you still don't get his ungrudging companionship, you'll know that this is something you're not going to get from this guy, and therefore you're faced with a choice: You either keep this guy and let him watch his football game and accept that he's not one to make you happy for the sake of making you happy; or you break up with the guy.

Recap: No more pitching fits, for attention or anything else.

BTW--how important is the important event? Before you ask it, you need to mean it, and not just want him to pass up his football to prove his devotion to you. Anatomy of a train wreck.

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Bad News Business Etiquette: Dear Carolyn,

First off, thanks for all you do. You have helped me many times over the years with your great perspective.

Please help me out with this: a client has just had a terrible tragedy in her family - her young grandson was killed as a result of child abuse.

Mailing a sympathy note seems like a pale and weak response - but what the heck else is there to do? She lives in a small town (we're in a small state, the whole place is a small town) and three will be an outpouring of sympathy(and publicity) in the days and weeks to come.

My instincts say send a note, pray, and sit back - I'm too distant a connection to be of any use right now. Am I justifying?

Carolyn Hax: Oh my. Unspeakable. You can do something, though--a note, of course, is appropriate, but is there any way you or your company could also make a donation in the child's name to an organization that helps prevent such abuse, or helps victims of it? If we can spare even $5, we are always in a position to be of use in the face of horrors like this.

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Washington, D.C.: (online only please!!!) Carolyn, I have a friend who has developed a reputation of being cheap. When everyone takes turns buying a round of drinks he'll blatantly not buy. If people overpay him for the tab, he doesn't give change. He'll leave a dinner early without paying his portion of the bill. When invited over to someone's house for a get together where he knows everyone is bringing something, he won't bring anything at all. Other friends have mentioned this individual occasions to him in passing, but I don't think he realizes that it's problem. He is losing friends and people have stopped inviting him out solely because he is cheap. If someone mentions that he has to pay, he doesn't seem to have a problem paying up so I really believe that he doesn't realize he's doing it. My question is this: is it appropriate to approach him on this topic? And if so, is there a diplomatic way to make him understand this is a serious problem and he needs to be more aware, or do I just lay it all out there with the possibility of him becoming upset? Thanks for your help.

Carolyn Hax: You can lay it all out there and hope any hurt feelings are for his own good, but if he really is clueless, you have another option. Since you seem to be there for a lot of these unbought rounds and unpaid tabs, you can say to him, "Hey, X, your turn," or, as he's leaving dinner early, "I'll cover you and let you know what you owe," or even, "Why don't you leave 40 bucks and if there's and change we'll hold onto it for you." If he starts to collect for a bill, say, "Forget it, when you do it I never get any change back." Like a friend, though, not like a p'd off friend. If you're consistent, you may eventually get the message across. If that fails too, then, definitely, write it out for him in crayon.

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Thinking in Circles, Tex.: I've been working in admin at a private school for six years. In my current position I'm stuck--no upward movement in the foreseeable future, and the school is too poor to give generous raises. I've been offered a corporate job for work I enjoy (I've been doing it part-time on the side), lots more money, the opportunity to travel, working from home, and future upward mobility, all win-wins in my view. Still, I'm having trouble walking away from a place I love, with people I love and a mission I believe in.

In last week's discussion I was struck by the comments about not looking back at what you have invested in a relationship (the girl in question has been with a guy for 3 years and was having trouble letting go of that history), job, etc, but looking ahead to to the future in that same job, relationship, etc. I've done a lot of thinking and reasoning myself into circles (there truly are a lot of pros and a lot of cons to taking this job) and I've reached the conclusion that in the big picture, long-term of my life, this is better for me.

My question is how do I let go of a place I am happy at, and more importantly, how do I get the courage to disappoint my boss so hugely? I'm dreading that conversation (Monday) like nothing ever before. I like and respect her and I have always had a great fear of disappointing those for whom I hold admiration. Help?

Carolyn Hax: Be honest about how torn you've been and hope your boss understands. If your respect is properly placed, she'll understand completely and might even be happy for you and applaud your move. I don't think (good) bosses expect people to stay in thankless jobs for long. They just appreciate that people stay as long as they do. Maybe you can keep up the relationship with the school in some way?

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Class Reunion, USA: Hi Carolyn!; Love the chats.

Here's a slightly fluffy question--My twenty year high school reunion is quickly approaching. I've received an invitation, but can't decide whether or not to go. I only attended this school for a year and a half, was quite a geek (still am), and kept in only sporadic touch with one person from school. I AM curious, though, as to how people "turned out." I recognize some of the names on the RSVP list, and my husband is willing to go with me, so I won't be alone. I guess my question for you and the 'nuts is two-fold--should I go?; and if I do, any quippy lines for that awkward silence when people look at me and clearly don't remember who I am?;

Carolyn Hax: Go, watch, enjoy, and leave the quippy lines on the buffet next to the mystery dip. They never work unless they're yours and they're spontaneous.

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Washington, D.C.: My husband and I have two children under the age of 4. My husband stays home with the kids three days a week, does most of the housework and shopping, and makes most of the money because of his wonderful and incredibly flexible job. It's an understatement to say I appreciate everything he does. However, my husband has an extremely short fuse with our kids. He doesn't spank or hit, but he screams at the top of his lungs (it scares me, I can't imagine what it does to them), swears, and calls them horrible names when they commit what I feel are pretty minor "infractions." We've discussed this at length, and he has made an appointment to begin anger management counseling, but I know there's a lot I need to do too. I feel helpless because I have a job which I love but at which I work about 60 hours a week including nights and weekends. I don't see my kids enough and I'm not around to help my husband. Is it weird of me to want to quit the "dream job" and apply for a part-time position with less responsibility so that I can be with my family more and shoulder my fair share of the household responsibilities? I've broached the subject with my husband but he's reluctant to see me give up what he feels is something valuable that I worked so hard for. But frankly, my marriage and family are what I want to work for. What can I do?

Carolyn Hax: Quit the "dream job" and apply for a part-time job with less responsibility. It's what you want, and the only other person who has a say in your decision, your husband, is hesitating only because he's concerned by what he thinks you want. You know your heart, so do it.

And now the other reason: Screaming, swearing and calling kids names, especially such little little kids, is child abuse. Get in there ASAP. If for some reason you couldn't quit, I'd say to go on leave till the counseling works.

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Dissertation, Inertia: Hi Carolyn, I'm writing my dissertation and have been having a terrible motivation problem. I mean TERRIBLE. I sit in front of my computer every day, all day. And surf the Internet, participate on message boards, etc. If I am lucky, I work for an hour or two.

I really want to finish this thing, I really do. I just don't know how to stay focused. I work from home, which is part of the problem - no social contacts at all during the day, so I start to feel depressed, lethargic, etc. Any words of wisdom to get me through this?

Carolyn Hax: 1. Go work where you have no Internet connection. If you have a wireless connection on your laptop, take it out. If you keep getting the urge to go home, get on a train and ride in circles.

2. Schedule your day to include social breaks. Work 8 to 11; go visit somewhere; work 1 to 4; take a walk; from 5 to 6, plan out your work for the next day, quit for the day at 6.

3. And if you have a day when you're really cranking, keep working; use that as permission to quit for the day if you're just not in the right frame of mind. Just make sure the two roughly even out.

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Alexandria, Va.: (Online only, please!) I have done an absolutely horrible thing and cheated on my girlfriend of a year and a half. I'm really angry at myself for hurting her, and I feel very guilty for violating her trust. I've resolved to be a better boyfriend and to never do something like that again, but I still feel guilty for lying to her about it. Do you think I should tell her the truth and deal with the consequences of hurting her, or should I not tell her and simply act better towards her, which prevents her from finding out and being devastated but is still dishonest?

Carolyn Hax: I wish I had an answer for you. One of the things that has taken shape over the eight years I've been doing this is that there are two large and distinct camps on this--tell or don't tell. And specifically these are people saying, "I'd want to know" or "I wouldn't want to know," which really exposes the loophole in the Golden Rule. What you'd want for you might emphatically NOT be what she'd want for herself.

You have to do what you think -she- needs and deserves, not what will alleviate your guilt. That's about the best I can do. Oh and also, remember, if she finds out by some other means than your telling her the truth yourself, you're pretty much toast.

And since someone's going to post it, here's my preemptive strike: Your possibly exposing her to an STD is something to factor into your decision.

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Warrenton, Va.: In addition to the increasingly snotty and convoluted answers that you are giving (not all of which clearly address the relevant question), I strongly resent your tendency to give domestic violence hotline numbers to every woman whose boyfriend complains about some little thing. Every time a boyfriend exerts a little authority in a relationship, you go off the deep end and interpret this as a case of potential abuse and violence. It is really outrageous and I am surprised that you don't get called on it more often. More likely, you don't print those type of questions in your chat. I can't believe others don't see through your disrespecting, feminist, man-hating bias here.

Carolyn Hax: "Asserts a little authority in a relationship"?

You're right. I am the problem here. Man rules the cave.

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early submission: Dear Carolyn,

I am so ridiculously awkward.

I used to be awkward and loud, but around sophomore year of high school got really quiet because I realized most people were annoyed by me. (I'll be a senior this year.)

Instead of following people around and vying for their approval like I used to, these days I pretty much keep to myself. (Read, draw, sleep, pet my kitty, go for walks.)

The one place (until school starts up in the fall) that I am around people a lot is work. My bosses and coworkers are all friendly, jovial people. They tell good stories and are fun to listen to. But when we start interacting with each other, I get so scared. I could either come across as snobby, tense, or jittery. I wish I could just relax and be happy conversing with them.

Please help?

Online only, thank you.

Unrelated: Your column should be daily (though that would mean double the work for you). And your ex's drawings are so cool. It's neat how his cartoon people manage to have real-people qualities about them. Most comic artists don't do that.

Carolyn Hax: Hi, and thanks. I'll pass your observations along to Nick.

I don't want to freak you out, but there's been a lot of progress recently on understanding and treating disorders that can result in extreme social awkwardness. This is not to say (by any means) that you have one, just that it couldn't hurt for you to get yourself screened for one.

Of course to get this help you have to ask someone, which I'm sure is the kind of thing to give you nightmares--but if you do a little homework behind the scenes you can make sure you're asking someone who has a clue and won't make you feel silly. A school counselor is one place to start, or a teacher you like and trust; a clergy person; your pediatrician.

Actually, I should have listed the pediatrician first. You can put in a call to the office to ask him or her to call you back, and then you can state your concern and ask what the process is for getting checked. Even if you don't have a diagnosable disorder of any kind, this could help you establish an ongoing relationship--with the doctor or counselor or clergy person--through which you learn concrete ways to venture out slowly, and thereby develop some confidence.

Last thing. You say "most people were annoyed by me." Meaning, some weren't. "Some" is enough for great friends, great colleagues, love. Look at that guy a few posts up. I annoy most people too, and I only cry once a week (2:30 to 2:45 pm on Fridays).

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Fairfax, Va.: My girlfriend has a bit of a temper. She'll sometimes say things like "I loved you and I thought you loved me.. " as emotional blackmail. This past weekend during a fight, she got mad when I wouldn't respond to her questions which were asked solely to escalate the fight, so she pulled out her cell phone and proceeded to chat with her ex-boyfriend for 10 minutes in the car while I was stuck in it with her.

She's apologized, and agreed to go to therapy for how to resolve conflict better. I'm skeptical of the chances though, and how long will I have to wait for the next fight to see if she really changes or not? I really love her, but if she continues to deal with conflict in this away, it's obviously a deal-breaker. I just don't know how I'm going to tell if she's really changed until it's too late.

Carolyn Hax: You don't have to wait for a fight, since a non-fight is equally telling. All you have to do is see how you get through a situation that is normally a trigger for her. Is it all way-too-easy agreement (i.e., possible burying of resentment for fear of getting dumped), or can she disagree with you--and express feelings genuinely on the subject, and not hear what she wants to hear in response--without getting emotional, taking personal shots at you, blackmailing?

A caveat, though. People rarely go from such wretched behavior as her vengeful phone call to mature emotional balance. She's got a long trip ahead of her, and if you're assessing your future with her, you need to assess first your willingness to be on any trip like that with her. If not, it's kind of a moot point then whether she actually means to keep her promise to change.

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Re: screaming and swearing at kids: Regarding the husband who screams and swears at his under-4 children: In addition to counseling, some early-childhood education may also be beneficial here. Sometimes just knowing what is age-appropriate behavior--and realizing that the kiddos aren't doing things just to drive you insane--can be very helpful.

Carolyn Hax: Great point, thank you.

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Olney, Md.: My mom is having some eye surgery in 2 weeks and seems rather scared. I'm planning to visit tomorrow, bringing the grandbaby with me. I'd like to provide an empathetic ear, but am really socially-challenged that way. Any suggestions for how to approach this without either "accusing" my mom of being afraid or of sounding dismissive of her concerns? -tactless daughter

Carolyn Hax: You'd be scared, too, if someone were about to cut into your eye. Think of that before you respond to her concerns. Remind her that it's normal to be scared because it's her eye, and also that the surgeons aren't scared because they do this every day, it's routine for them.

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Washington, D.C.: Just wanted to send a quick word of encouragement to the shy teen - first, I've been there too and you can definitely learn ways to feel more comfortable. Second, I used to work for a mental health practice in reception - it was amazing to see the changes many people made in their lives, especially young women in their late teens/early 20's. There was one young lady I'll never forget whose mom almost dragged her in to her first appointment. Within a couple of months she was chatting with all the receptionists and we discovered what a lovely person she was. If you take the time to work on shyness (whether informally or through counseling), you will let other people get to know and like you.

Carolyn Hax: Like an e-hug. Perfect. Thank you.

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Falls Church, Va.: RE: Warrenton

Carolyn, you rock! Never think otherwise.

Anyone who uses the word "authority" when referring to a personal relationship clearly has issues that require professional assistance.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you. I always think otherwise, but I won't bore you with my personal problems.

I don't think Warrenton is at any risk of imminent conversion, but I'm posting this for anyone who nodded in agreement with him. This way of thinking is in fact what drives so much traffic, male and female, to the domestic abuse hotlines.

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Washington, D.C.: Re: Waynesboro- Carolyn, I think you are right in your assumptions. I recently got out of a relationship with someone who did the exact same thing. I thought he would stop, or change-but it got worse. He started to make up things to throw temper tantrums about and continually make me out to be the bad guy in situations any "normal" person would react to in a calm and non-angry manner. Maybe it isn't this serious in your case- but if this is a pattern, I'd get out before you end up feeling like I did-no self esteem and like I was the worst person in the world.

Carolyn Hax: Posting this for anyone else who doesn't agree that it's a warning sign of something bigger. Check out also "The Gift of Fear," or the Peace at Home Web site (www.peaceathome.org), or any reputable treatment of controlling and/or abusive behavior. It is not rocket science. It has a clear pattern, and it starts small, so people dismiss it, and then one day they find themselves hostage to temper tantrums and petty criticisms and jealous accusations. It happens to men and women, perpetrated by men and women, and it's bad news and any time I see it, even in nascent form, I'm making the call.

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If a question does not get answered one week...: ...do you mind if we submit it again the next week? Is it annoying to see questions posted again and again, or do you like having the chance to answer a question that you might have wanted to answer the prior week but just didn't get to?

Carolyn Hax: I don't see most of the questions till after it's over, so, yea, please do resubmit. Just not twice to the same chat. Thanks.

Outta here. Thanks everybody, stay cool, type to you Friday.

(Maybe ... I also may be off. I'll have to huddle with Liz next week, so watch the schedule.)

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Re: Fairfax: It takes two: Having raised 3 kids, I believe it really does take two to fight. What about the boy friend's role in this?;

Not responding to her?; She may see that as the "silent treatment" which isn't helping this situation. This sounds more like two kids who both need time out.

Carolyn Hax: He also could have been "not responding" by saying, "That's not a fair question, and I'm not going to respond," which would be right and fair in that instance. But yea to the rest, that it takes two. Thanks.

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