washingtonpost.com
Tell Me About It

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 17, 2006 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.

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Washington, D.C.: Can you give me a compelling reason not to split at the end of the first hour to go catch the Vanilla Ice chat?

Carolyn Hax: Funny, I was going to ask you the same thing.

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At a Loss: Hi Carolyn! Happy belated V-day. I'm having a pretty common Gen-X problem: what do I do with my life? I thought I had it figured out -- I'm in grad school -- but I'm getting disenchanted, big-time. I'm not sure if I can make the switch to a 9 to 5 with a boss, but the other things I would want to study are either too hard (science) or not really career choices (art). I'll vomit bile if I stay in the humanities, but I'm seriously blank on what to do next. Short of some kind of meditation retreat, how does somebody figure out what they want to do?

Carolyn Hax: I'll try to come up with something, but if I were you I'd go with the meditation retreat. Especially if vomiting bile remains among the alternatives.

And, I'd be careful about dismissing art as a career choice, since you don't have to look far around you to see we are all ravenous consumers of art (and or "art"). How far can you walk without seeing an MP3 player, a poster or other ad, a flickering TV screen, a sculpture, a handpainted sign, a logo--every single one of which bears the mark of a working artist, or a team of working artists.

Which is a nice segue to my point: The biggest hurdle to answering the what-to-do question is the limits to our own imaginations. So, start by pushing yours a bit. Look around, examine what you gravitate to or enjoy, and try to think of what jobs lie behind that end product. And if you still come up blank, tap into other imaginations: your school's career office, informational interviews with people who seem to have cool jobs, career Web sites, etc.

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Portland, Ore.: I know you were looking at the bigger picture when answering today's writer in your column, but I'm surprised you didn't mention all the ways to stay in good shape during and after pregnancy-there are lots of resources to help a woman do so. There's exercises that can help not just with weight but with childbirth and recovery-talk to your doctor, make an appointment with a personal trainer at a gym, and look at the magazines and books that cover this topic.

Carolyn Hax: There are, but there's a very fine line between wanting to take care of yourself and be in shape for childbirth, and going into pregnancy with the intention of coming out with the same youthful body. It's the difference between challenging yourself and pressuring yourself. The last thing I wanted to do was imply that she could come out of it her same beautiful self if she only tried hard enough, because that's telling someone who's already putting unreasonable demands on her body to throw a few more on the pile.

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D.C. S.O.S.: Gone out with a girl a couple times - and I like her. A lot. So much that my usual calm, suave demeanor has been replaced with a slack jawed yokel who laughs too loudly at his own jokes and sometimes stares into her eyes instead of telling the waiter what I want to drink. (Yes, I nauseate myself too.)

I keep telling myself she's not just a smart'n'sexy piece of meat (with beautiful eyes did I mention her eyes?), and that I just need to relax and be myself. Somehow the message just isn't getting through. I changed my shirt THREE TIMES before the last date - that's how bad it's gotten. Help!

Carolyn Hax: No! I won't. This is great. Enjoy it.

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re: at a loss: So you addressed the not dismissing art as a career choice, but how about the not dismissing science as "too hard"?

Carolyn Hax: You're right--I rushed out of that question b/c I was taking too long.

If s/he enjoys science, there's no such thing as too hard.

I also meant to knock down the anti-9-to-5-ism. I've worked on academic, 9-to-5, 1-to-9 and 4-to-midnight, M-to-F, and Su-to-Th schedules, as well as a no-schedule-at-all schedule (now), and from my perspective the 9-to-5 routine has its advantages. The more rigid the work hours, the more rigid the off hours, and that's a beautiful thing, especially coming out of academia, where there's always something due and more to do.

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re: At A Loss ... : ... sounds like he/she is stuck in victim mode. Science is too hard, art is a dead-end, humanities make me vomit ... c'mon! Sounds like she has lots of interests and therefore many options.

Carolyn Hax: Well said, thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,

My husband and I have decided we're ready to start trying to have a baby. Problem is, now we're kind of afraid to have sex! It's kind of like playing Russian Roulette or something. We know this is what we want, but it is such a huge step! Any ideas?

Carolyn Hax: Nothing I can type with a straight face.

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Arlington, Va.: My boyfriend is so awesome, but he gets jealous about my past relationships. I've dated more guys than he has (he had a four-year relationship) and he's insecure. I don't know how to deal with it because its not like I can change anything, nor would i want to. I'm not jealous. Do you think he's just insecure with himself? Thanks so much! hope you're doing well.

Carolyn Hax: Very well, thanks. I do think he's insecure with himself, and the best way to deal with that is not to get sucked into it. "It's not like I can change anything, nor do I want to" is the perfect perfect attitude to have about this. Don't rub your exes in his face, but don't flinch, either, when they come up in a natural way. This is not your problem to deal with, it's his, and if he really is awesome he won't try to make it your problem. And that's where the line is between an awesome guy who has some stuff to work through like anyone else, and a guy who isn't ready to be anyone's boyfriend yet: whether he pressures you or gets possessive. If he doesn't, good for him, and if he does, time to move on.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Dear Carolyn, please help! I'm 35 and my husband and I have always been pretty certain that we didn't want kids. But lately I'm really struggling with the decision. I'm obsessing over the pros and cons, and there are many on each side. Why does everyone else seem to KNOW they either want kids or don't? I'm terrified of this decision, and it's time to make it one way or the other. My husband really doesn't want children, so I don't even know if I have an option here, but I think he would listen if I really felt strongly about it. I know that either way I have to give something up and accept that, but I don't know how to avoid making a decision I regret for the rest of my life! I've talked to all my friends and family about this but nothing helps. Thanks for any words of advice.

Carolyn Hax: Have you talked to your husband about it yet? Seems to me the insights you come to together would be the ones you'd value most--especially since he might really mean it when he says he doesn't want kids.

And, if it makes you feel better, I haven't met too many of your everyone elses. Most people I know have struggled with this decision like no other. How do you choose a future based on feelings you can't know a thing about till you have them, and can't reverse once you do have them?

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Tampa, Fla.: I am newly single and just getting back on the dating market. Had a great (really great) date last week with what seemed like genuine interest from both parties to do it again. Then why haven't I heard from him in a week? I know this isn't going to go anywhere, but part of me wants to email him to say WTF, just cause I think it's crappy to act like he did. I know it's probably a waste of my time, but I really am curious. It it a bad idea?

Carolyn Hax: Maybe. Probably, if you're looking for some kind of satisfaction or response from him. But if you look at it as your responsibility as a citizen of humanity to point out to him that what he did was Not Cool, and you don't care what he thinks of you as a result, then go for it.

I'm assuming, btw, that you slept together, or got close enough to it to have created some kind of expectations on your part. If I assume incorrectly, and all you did was have what you thought was a nice connection, then the advice is different and I wouldn't email him. In that case, I'm not sure what he did was anything more serious than not wanting to see you again after one date, which is disappointing but not "crappy."

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Cheapsburgh, USA: Hello, Carolyn,

Recent recipient of rebound sex. Two weeks later, she admits to still being in love with her boyfriend (note: bf was not prefaced with "ex-"). Said that she need to tell me, but wanted to still "hang out" (ineffective pause) maybe as friends. And she understood if I needed to think about it.

My response (with no pause): "I'm emotionally available and would like to stay that way. I think you need to be the one to think about it. If you get over him, give me a call if you'd like. If I'm still emotionally available, I'll think about it then."

Wait.. I still hear the applause. It's a rare moment, and I still need to take it all in...

So, why do I feel so cheap? And what's the solution?

At 34, I've had several relationships, but I've never done this to anyone, and I really didn't need this done to me.

I feel like the kid who no longer has perfect attendance.

And to bewilder further all the clueless guys out there wondering WTF is the problem: she was kind of a hottie.

abnormal response

Carolyn Hax: Who cares about perfect attendance when you've achieved a Perfect Comeback. Even the French judge is impressed.

I don't think there is a solution, other than letting time go to work on that sensation of cheapness. Unless of course she does come crawling back, in which case you get to recall how she made you feel and respond with, "Thanks, but no thanks." BUt then, that would be two perfect answers in one lifetime, when even one can feel like a miracle.

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San Francisco, Calif.: Carolyn,A few weeks ago you chastised a writer for not being supportive enough to a depressed friend. I would like to know how, exactly, to deal with a friend who is chronically depressed and who refuses any suggestions that might help her. She won't go to therapy (since she went to one session and it didn't help), won't consider anti-depressants, doesn't participate in activities that she used to find fun, and though she would really like to a boyfriend/husband, won't take any steps toward this because she has decided she is fated to spend her life alone. I have seen other friends struggle with depressions but they took steps-therapy, exercise-to help themselves. I am at a loss about what to do and I feel like I'm at the end of my rope, since I'm the one that she complains to, everyday, about everything. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Hi. I did chastise that writer, but for judging her friend when she didn't have all the facts--not for being unsupportive. At the end of my huff, I even added that it's an acceptable choice to throw in the towel--to decide you don't have a close enough friendship to motivate and/or justify the kind of effort it takes to support a depressed friend.

That said, your situation sounds different. It sounds like you do know what depression is about and have reasonable expectations of your friend, and she just won't budge. In that case, I think you need to extract yourself--carefully and kindly--from your role as her complainee. "I love you but I am just your friend, and I can't and won't be your therapist. Please give it another try." If you feel uncomfortable doing this, talk to a therapist yourself before you approach her, to get suggestions on how to handle it.

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Tampa, Fla.: Isn't it possible that the guy Tampa went out with is just sitting back hoping she'll call him, and very upset that she hasn't?

Carolyn Hax: Could be, though societal ruts say otherwise. Worth a try regardless, thanks.

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After one date: You can call/email him to say "I had a nice time. Want to (insert plan here)?" Maybe he didn't realize you had a nice time. Maybe he's busy. Maybe not, but who says the guy has to call?

Carolyn Hax: Ditto. Thanks.

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For Tampa: A female can also call a male. There are a thousand reasons he might not have called. I once had a date stand me up. It turned out he was getting pulled out of his wrecked car by the jaws of life and rushed to trauma surgery. That's fair. I was awful embarassed about the message I left on his phone. You never know.

Carolyn Hax: Did you go out again?

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Grass is always greener...: Recently I keep meeting guys I would like to date. But I'm 26 and have been in a good relationship for 4+ years. Bf is lovely and it would hurt awfully to leave him. But I worry that lately I am so often distracted by new guys. Rationally, I figure I am probably not missing much and should be happy that I have a great bf who loves me and whom I love. I am a little scared that we'll settle down and I'll never feel quite satisfied. What strategies are there for deciding when you are just eyeing greener grass versus when you have grown out of a relationship?

Carolyn Hax: 1. Wait a little while, see if your eye wanders less or more. Relationships do have phases.

2. Put yourself in your BF's place. Would you want you for a girlfriend, feeling as you do? So often we hold onto people for our comfort reasons without considering that maybe they don't want to be someone's old sneaker. (An offshoot of the question about the bride who's getting married only because it's too messy to cancel a wedding.)

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Arlington, Va.: Re: Pregnancy and Inner Beauty

I'm all for encouraging folks to accept the inevitability of physical change, over time or as a result of some sudden and dramatic event, but I do find it ironic that this particular question and your reply appeared alongside an article revealing that more crimes are perpetrated by unattractive folks than by average or attractive folks. While I'm curious about the standards of beauty used in this study, the notion that the affirmation and attention that attractive people receive may lead to their being more socially well-adjusted members of society must bear some truth. Are you dismissing altogether the role that attractiveness can have in a person's life? Singing the praises of inner beauty doesn't change the fact that people respond to and interact with the beautiful differently.

Carolyn Hax: I'm certainly not dismissing the importance of looks altogether. I included a nod to society's emphasis on looks: "Thus all those nods of vaguely hypocritical approval any time anyone brings up the subject of inner beauty"--since of course we obviously value outer beauty, often to the exclusion of other traits. And I accounted for the fact that it's never going to be all about inner beauty, for her but really for anyone: "You'll probably always care too much about looks, which isn't a world-ender; the point is to find something inside you to care about more."

So, again, not dismissing, just saying she needs/we need to have something inside to care about more. Now we know it's not just to be better parents, but also to stay out of the pokey.

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Alexandria, Va.: Is it ok for a person in loving, long-term relationship to still become infatuated with someone else? Does that mean there's a problem, or is it just one of those things that happens and is ok if you don't act on it? I'm not talking having a crush on someone for months--just meeting someone, feeling that little tug, and then forgetting about it 5 minutes later. But that tug scares me a little.

Carolyn Hax: Don't let it. Or, let it, and enjoy the buzz. Bring it home to the long-term relationship. Whatever works for you.

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Re: San Francisco, Calif.: What if the depressed person who won't get help is your mother? You can't exactly extricate yourself from that situation or sever the relationship (especially since I'm the only one who knows how bad it is). But her constant depression and steadfast insistence on not doing a thing about it is draining your very existence. What do you do?

Carolyn Hax: I think NAMI (www.nami.org) might have resources for you--it's a big site so I won't try to track down the specifics, but they do offer counseling to family members of people with mental illnesses. You could also try the resource links at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/

Individual counseling could help here, too, if you do your homework and find someone who specializes in the issues that stem from having depressed family members. People tend to see counseling as a fuzzy, let's-talk-about-feelings kind of thing, but it can also provide extremely useful instruction on the mechanics of the mind. E.g., depressed people have certain known behaviors, which can then have certain known effects on family, which a therapist can help you identify and therefore better address.

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Greener grass works: The world is full of things you've opted out of, and it's ok. There's nothing wrong with enjoying the view over the fence.

Carolyn Hax: What a great way to look at it. Thanks.

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Chapel Hill, N.C.: Doesn't a person's confidence in their own inner beauty often trickle down to outer beauty? Rarely the other way around, though.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, it can happen both ways. Not by being vain, obviousy, but people who take conscious care of their physical selves--through proper diet, exercise, regular sleep, grooming, good clothes, killer shoes--can definitely get a confidence boost for their effort.

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Carolyn Hax: Sorry guys--my connection is in a mood today.

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Inner vs. Outer Beauty: I don't know, the article didn't say the people didn't work out, it said they were unattractive from a very young age, as I recall. No one's denying we have a youth-looks oriented culture, and that a lot of plums fall in the laps of those who top the charts (or bottom them, as the case may be) in those areas. At the same time, aren't we talking chicken and the egg here, too? That is, maybe if we did put our money where our mouth is (on inner beauty), we might change a whole lot of things in society - how we feel about ourselves, for one, but also what happens to those who don't measure up on the looks/attractiveness scale.

Carolyn Hax: Certainly something to think about. My hunch is a lot of people's reactions are subconscious, and we don't realize we're giving more attention to the cuter baby. That doesn't excuse it, and in fact that's the advantage to thinking about it--it raises it to a conscious level, thus allowing us to change the behavior.

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Washington, D.C.: Could we all -not- just assume that somebody with a question about dating, or calling, a guy is a woman? Love your stuff, Carolyn, but not every gay person is going to remember to identify him or her self as such when they write in with a question...

Carolyn Hax: Nor should she. Or he. But while you're right about this one, I don't think it's necessarily wrong to go with the percentages sometimes. Fine line between inclusion and pronounular mayhem.

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Wayoverhe, RE: Maybe your connection needs to see a good therapist.

Just sayin'.

Carolyn Hax: I've tried, but it refuses.

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For the poster with the depressed mother: Been there, done that. Although it doesn't feel like it at the time, things can get better. My mother resisted suggestions for counseling for a long time. I never dreamed that she would change her mind. For us, things got worse before they got better -- when she began to threaten to harm herself, my sister and I alerted her doctor. The doctor was someone she very much trusted. The plan was for the doctor to talk to her about how bad she was feeling, how much everyone was concerned, how there were options (counseling, meds) for feeling better. Before that even happened, my mother had a crying breakdown (in public) and I was able to convince her to initiate an appt with the doctor. She got a referral to a psychiatrist -- an older woman who she really liked and opened up to. The psychiatrist convinced her to try some medication -- which made a tremendous difference.

The keys for us -- expert help that my mother trust, lots of patience and support from her family, and some prayer and positive thinking. It also doesn't help to make therapy-averse people aware of just how common going to therapy and taking mood disorder medication is in our society. This helps to relieve the stigma, which is especially strong among older people. My mother was surprised to find out how many of her friends had seen not just a therapist but a psychiatrist.

Life is much better today. My mother enjoys and values her life again. Hang in there -- it can get better. Take care of yourself, but remember that someone you love needs your help and get the help you need to help her. Even the darkest situation can get better. Good luck.

Carolyn Hax: Good stuff, thanks.

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Inner vs. Outer: Does that mean I should have or should not have eaten that bag of cheetos?

Carolyn Hax: It's all about you, isn't it.

Should have, if the occasional frenzy of curiously orange cheez helps keep you from taking life too seriously.

Shouldn't have, if you knew you'd hate yourself beforehand and did it anyway and now hate yourself.

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Alexandria, Va.: I am in my early 20s and am just starting out in the office setting (as a temp). On most of my assignments, I'm the youngest person in the office, and I think sometimes it affects the way I present myself.

Sometimes at the beginning of assignments (or even in interviews for long term jobs) my nervousness spills into my voice/speaking manner (to me, it sounds overly polite, timid, young, and girly) Once I've gotten used to the environment my regular speaking habits fall into place. However, I was recently at an assignment whereI heard a girl around my age who sounded VERY young, and i found myself thinking "what if I sound like that?". Any advice about how i can start using my normal voice (which sounds confident and not particularly young) from the very beginning? Also, I'm afraid I across as quiet-- something which is fine to be, but something i am not. How can I convey a truer image of myself?

Carolyn Hax: Be patient. The longer you knock around earth, the fewer environments will feel "new"--and, concurrently, the less of a **** you'll give what people think of you (since few people or things that seem impressive remain that way once you become familiar with them)--and the lower your introductory voice will get. It's the time-release version of the Brady Bunch advice to help calm your nerves before a speech, of picturing everyone in their underwear.

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Tampa was gay?: I'm confused: Tampa was gay? Or some other writer was?

Carolyn Hax: Maybe, maybe not, which was the writer's point--asking people not to assume the sexes when none are specified.

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Inner vs. Outer beauty and crime/other bad things: Carolyn, another take on the outer beauty/crime thing is that many people who end up in the criminal justice system suffer from some form of mental illness (frequently undiagnosed) or emotional disorder. People who are mentally ill are not usually capable of taking care of themselves adequately, let alone maintaining a GQ/Vogue physical appearance.

It's good to remember that "correlation is not causation" and that poor physical appearance can have an underlying cause that's more serious than just failure to look good.

Carolyn Hax: I haven't read the story yet, so I don't know if it accounted for things like grooming, but even if it doesn't apply here the "correlation is not causation" lesson should be taped to all of our foreheads. Thanks.

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A car wreck of a date: Yes. We did go out again. Our next "date" was take out food in the hospital at bed side. It didn't work out in the end, but I did all the driving from then on! And he never stopped teasing me about that "where the heck are you, loser?" phone message.

Carolyn Hax: Eh, too bad. It's a good story, but had the relationship worked out, it would have been greatness.

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Washington, D.C. (re: ready for baby...): Please help! My question about being a little nervous about having sex now was serious!!

Carolyn Hax: 1. If you are not serious about having a baby, then put the goalie back in.

2. If you are serious and just scared, I think you can safely trust nature to handle it.

3. If you trust nature to handle it and 6 months go by and you still are too scared to have sex, please revisit 1.

I realize I'm still being a twit, but "There, there, it'll all be okay" actually isn't the right answer here, I don't think.

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Psychiatry and therapy-- a downside: Carolyn, while I am a wholehearted proponent of psychiatric evaluation and therapy/medication as effective, life-changing treatment for people with depression, I have to call your attention to a downside that does keep some people from getting treatment.

Under certain circumstances, getting treatment that involves therapy and medication for depression can have a HUGELY adverse affect on a person's employment in certain fields. Example: treatment by a psychiatrist for depression is pretty much the kiss of death for anyone who aspires to a career as an airline pilot. (Even a recreational pilot may find that his medical certificate, necessary to legally fly, is denied or revoked if he/she goes for medical treatment of depression.) For this reason, people who aspire to careers in aviation will almost never be persuaded to go get treatment for depression if it involves seeing a therapist and getting medication.

Similarly, if someone holds certain kinds of security clearances, visits to psychiatrists and pharmacological treatment of depression must be reported and can be cause for revocation of the security clearance, which can really screw up a person's chances for employment/advancement in certain industries (think aerospace or other high-tech jobs).

Sometimes it isn't just stubborness that holds people back from getting treatment.

Carolyn Hax: I appreciate that, thank you. I also know that it can cause problems with getting insurance, say, if you try to get long-term care insurance or if you leave your company and its health plan and try to buy individual health insurance.

Then there's the whole issue of appropriateness: Do you want an airline pilot with a history of major depression? Should keeping your job be seen as a legitimate priority over your fitness to do the job? (Though I guess that's what term limits are for.) If going untreated is the only way to keep a sensitive job, doesn't that all but scream that the rules are seriously screwed up and need another look?

So I think we're stuck with an imperfect answer here: that people who are depressed should seek treatment, but it can't hurt to do your homework, including to ask questions of your potential provider, before you make the appointment. And I think that efforts to inform and get rid of the stigma need to continue, because not all treatment is created equal--because not all depression is created equal.

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Re: Scared to have sex: Seems to me it's a not so subtle message from her subconscious that maybe she's not ready to have a baby after all.

Carolyn Hax: I'd say that, but since so many people who have no business being parents seem to have no sexual hurdles, conscious or sub-, I'm also willing to believe this couple is just conscientious and freaked. Or, not yet sufficiently pent-up.

But of course if you're right and she sees this and sees herself, I hope she listens, tx.

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Ooo, ooo, pick me!: Hi Carolyn,

Love the column and chats. Getting late, but hope you can fit this one in. Have dated half a dozen guys over the past several years. All great guys, no real problems, ended up breaking up with each of them not b/c of anything in particular but just b/c I didn't really see any of them as "the one" I wanted to be with long-term. Anyway, am getting into my 30s now, want a family, and am wondering whether you really know when it's "the one" or whether it's more a process of finding a good person and just making it work. Not settling, exactly, since I still have standards. But do I need to have the "no doubt in my mind, this is the one" feeling?

Carolyn Hax: All specifics are negotiable, like hobbies and locations and who makes more or reads what. But don't compromise on the companionship. If this isn't someone whose company you look forward to and just flat-out enjoy, don't do it.

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Re: Russian Roulette: Carolyn,

Can I help this woman out? Cuz I do know what she means. Here's the thing: you're not very likely to get pregnant IMMEDIATELY, since most people take at least a few months. So you can go ahead and "get started" if you just realize that it's almost surely not going to happen right now. (It can feel like lotsa pressure if you keep thinking, "this is it! I'm getting pregnant RIGHT NOW!")

Carolyn Hax: Some people do get pregnant IMMEDIATELY, RIGHT NOW. If they aren't ready, they aren't ready.

Unless you didn't mean it and were only trying to calm her down. But then of course she gets to freak out when it happens on the first try.

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Virginia: My office cafeteria is the high school lunchroom (exclusive lunch groups). What do you do?

Carolyn Hax: Eat alone. Bring a crossword.

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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn- I explained to my mother that she can't surprise my son with gifts- she has to give me some kind of heads-up about them. She's duplicated gifts several times and it's such a waste. I reminded her that today, his birthday, and she screamed that she "won't be controlled" by me. I feel dizzy and disoriented, possibly a panic attack coming on. Am I within my rights as a parent?

Carolyn Hax: Of course, but: Is the waste such a big deal? It sounds like your relationship with your mom is already difficult, so why not just choose not to fight this particular battle and let her bring what she wants. I'm sure there's a local children's charity that could put the old toys she "replaces" to good use.

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It's me, from today's column: I think it was me. I was debating whether to go w/adoption - that probably got snipped for space.

I was surprised at the 'needing external approval' part. The only reason I offered up others' opinion(s) is to help clarify that, in this world of over-confident people (think American Idols rejects), I'm not deluded in what I think/feel about myself. Anyway - not looking to get defensive, just thought that your answer might have a diff. focus, if you knew me in person. (If I said "my friends would laugh hearing 'needing approval' and me in the same sentence...well...you'd just think you were right all along. There's really no way for me to give you a 'objective' picture of myself, without involving some sort of feedback.)

RE: vanity, I'm not the kind of person you might think. I do not dye my hair, do my nails, etc. I wake up and go. I wear minimal makeup. I'd never, ever go for plastic surgery. I'm anti- false advertising. I'm hugely low-maintenance. I'm just naturally happy w/the way things are. Which is the basis of being scared of pregnancy. Change. That'll be the biggest change in my life - even considering that I've spent exactly 50-50 of my life living on opposite sides of the earth. I can conquer many many things - beating the odds as a woman in a male-dominated field, earning a high-tech degree in record time, whatever. I'm not even afraid of aging, or death, or racism (which, I endure daily). But the whole pregnancy thing has me baffled. There's the weight change, there's the physical pain, the imagery that I get in my head.

Carolyn Hax: I'm sorry, I just saw this and I'm leaving so I'll try to cover it quickly. I appreciate the elaboration, and while it does change some impressions the one that's still there is that you hold dear your definition of yourself, and that definition is greatly dependent upon appearances. Not afraid of aging, death or racism, but afraid, I'd guess, of mediocrity. Being unimpressive. Being at anyone's mercy in any significant way. If I'm way off (or way on), please weigh in--next week, though. I'll gladly pick it up again. (If I see it; I do get swamped and sometimes forget my promises.)

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Re: security clearance and depression: I work in HR in a "cleared" environment and I can say one thing definitively-- clearance paperwork and medical records don't mingle.

Questions about personal health do not appear on the SF-86 (standard form one fills out for secret/top secret clearance) and security personnel don't query your doctor about your meds or personal history. Spooks are entitled to patient/doctor confidentiality too.

Don't let fallacies like this keep folks in the intel/defense industry from seeking help!

Carolyn Hax: Thanks--I can't verify this but I hope it spurs people to do their own homework before they make huge decisions about their health.

Okay now I'm really leaving. Thanks all, have a great weekend and I'll type to you next Friday.

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