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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 19, 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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One step forward....: I just jogged for an hour, and came home and had a bowl of ice cream. Why?

Carolyn Hax: Because you earned it? Don't be so hard on yourself.

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Orleans, Mass.: I have been friends with this woman for almost one year and it's been great. It's been platonic so far, but we do EVERYTHING boyfriends/girlfriends do (call daily, go to dinner, express our feelings for one another, share each other's lives) EXCEPT anything physical/intimate. I recently pointed out that we act like a couple, and asked if she was interested. She said no. She is currently dating someone new who doesn't have half of our chemistry. What gives? Am I doomed to the "friend zone"? What am I to do?

Carolyn Hax: Stay friends as long as you can stand it, and if she hasn't gotten her head out of her butt by then, I guess you just tell her you can't be just-friends any more.

This won't come as much consolation, but if it doesn't blossom in to a romance, at least you'll know what a great relationship is and therefore what to hold out for. You'd be surprised at how many people are struggling to figure that out.

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You're on semi-vacation?: Your column is "on vacation" but you're still doing the Friday chat? Doesn't that kind of spoil the concept of time off from work?

...Or are you doing the chat from a laptop on the beach in Eleuthra, or on the balcony of a luxury hotel in Paris or Rome or someplace, getting paid while having a fabulous time?

If it's the latter, I want to know how a person lands a gig like that...

Carolyn Hax: I'm just trying to be mysterious.

I did do the chat from an Internet cafe in Paris once, which in retrospect seems akin to ruining a perfectly good bowl of ice cream with a one-hour jog.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Carolyn,

I'm surprised that you don't often address potential cultural differences between friends or mates. For example, the person last week who complained about his five-years-younger girlfriend's attachment to family might not be just about age but about family differences. My husband and I are Orthodox Jews, but we were not raised in Orthodox families. Accordingly, our nuclear family and synagogue friends are the people with whom we spend the most time -- and it might be a real culture shock when our kids are old enough to date if they started dating someone from a big OJ family where there are constant family events (holidays, weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc) as the main source of social life. Similarly, our OJ friends often think we must have poor relationships with our families because there is not a plethora of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc at every family occasion, when the truth is that it's not animosity but just not a priority for them. I'm sure this is also true for lots of traditional cultures, including Indians, devout Catholics (esp. where the parents are immigrants), Mormons, etc. Yet you always focus just on the dynamics between the individuals involved and not the expectations they bring to the table.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.

Carolyn Hax: Happy to help.

And thanks for the suggestion. When people provide me no information on cultural differences, I make no comment on cultural differences. Cultural ties could explain the girlfriend's attachment to family, but I can also think of a dozen other explanations that have nothing to do with cultural.

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Carolyn Hax: culTURE. Sorry, sent that before I finished editing.

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The Numbers Game, Washington, D.C.: Happy Friday, Carolyn and Producer! What is the best way to tiptoe around the question when someone asks how much money you make? And keeps pressing you about it? I hate when this question comes up because I don't know how to respond. Other than, "I'm sorry. I don't talk about my salary." People have even tried to play guessing games to find out how much I make! I'm not flashy and generally frugal, so I'm not sure why anyone cares.

Carolyn Hax: Then ask. "Is this really important to know?"

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New York: This is a weird question possibly more suited to Miss Manners and prompted by the cream question.

I am really athletic and work out a lot and look great in clothes. The only problem is that once I'm in a swimsuit, I'm pale, cellulite-y, puffy in the wrong places, etc. I feel weird wearing a swimsuit in public not so much because I'm uncomfortable but because I'm wondering at what point one shuns public near-nudity for the sake of avoiding making others uncomfortable. Where is the line between making others' beach/pool trips unpleasant and letting others' judgments stifle my fun?

Carolyn Hax: The horizon. Just go swimmming, and stop looking over your shoulder.

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Washington, D.C.: Where did the click here to refresh button disappear to?

washingtonpost.com: Technical glitch. It'll be back next week. In the meantime, you can either press F5 or the reload button on your browser. - Liz

Carolyn Hax: What she says.

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Vermont: Celebs are moving to our area. We're up to three or four pretty substantial ones, and a few minor ones.

Should we treat them as celebrities, or shall we try to help them assimilate and be "normal" here, away from "work"?

Carolyn Hax: Wouldn't trying to help them assimilate be treating them as celebrities? They're people. Once you get past the urge to stare, the kindest thing you can do is treat them like people. The ones who want to be treated like celebrities will hate it, which is a bonus.

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Texas: Hi Carolyn. Please, please, please answer this question. My girlfriends told me last night the average number of times per week a married couple has sex is three to four. I was under the impression is was more like one. Now I'm feeling extremely insecure. Are they correct? Thanks as always.

Carolyn Hax: Ask them how many times a week they have sex.

On second thought, don't.

If you want to have sex more often, try initiating it more often. If you were fine with the frequency before anyone said anything, then you're fine. What other people are doing doesn't matter, and what other people say other people are doing matters even less.

And even though it doesn't matter, I'm not even sure what they're saying sounds right.

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Oxford, Miss: Re: Numbers Game. It might be a matter of what Numbers Game does for a living. If s/he is a taxidermist or a food tester or a foot model or something, people might just want to know what a [unusual occupation] pays.

Carolyn Hax: Someone in one of those jobs still deserves respect when s/he responds that pay is a private matter.

And someone who's all three needs to be careful not to bring work home.

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Follow up to column, Bethesda, Md.: I came across Wed column in the paper not knowing I'd be dealing with the same issue. I see current boyfriend rarely and am realizing that one of his "friendships" is slipping into something more -- hit me in the face when a friend showed me a correspondence between them indicating that my boyfriend felt a strong connection and bond to said female. It went on to say more, and in and of itself could have been construed to mean nothing more than friendship, except we have been having problems for the past few months -- lacking connection, his effort to connect has been minimal if any. He also indicated his eagerness to spend more time with this friend, too... all of which makes me feel like a rubber shoe. I feel disrepected and hurt, how to not take this personally -- i know it's the only way I'll be able to move on fully or even confront it (how do I do that?)

Carolyn Hax: I think it would help a lot if you were the one to initiate the breakup. Truth is, you don't want this relationship. Of course you want the validation of having him be drawn urgently to you, and not to someone else--anyone would feel that way. But that isn't happening, and so he isn't the guy. It really doesn't have to be more complicated or personal than that. You guys don't line up right. Oh well.

And I suspect your being the one who has the strength to say this out loud will give you a shot of confidence right when you need it most.

If you think of it, let us know what you decide and what happens. Hang in there.

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Re: New York: Talk about being hard on yourself! Jeez. And judging yourself harshly and cruelly - would you judge someone else like that? I just feel so bad to hear someone describe themselves in such unkind terms.

Carolyn Hax: I know. I agree.

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Alexandria: Ok, I'm curious about the circumstances of people asking Numbers Game about his/her salary. And pressing for an answer. And playing guessing games. Just because I'm trying to remember the last time someone asked me about my salary, and I'm pretty sure the answer is never. Do people really do that? Regularly?

Carolyn Hax: I was wondering that myself.

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Washington, D.C.: Mother-in-law-to-be keeps "correcting" me in public about pronunciations, opinions, appearance, etc., and, at least with respect to the pronunciations, she is often wrong. I have asked fiance to intercede. He blows me off. I know it is supposed to be rude to correct someone in public, but it is getting VERY hard for me to not say something back to her. Suggestions?

Carolyn Hax: I'm disappointed in myself here, because I can't think of anything better than just smiling and taking it. Since the alternatives are confronting her on the spot or confronting her privately later on, and since the correcting strikes me as not at all about correcting but instead about marking territory, I'm not sure you're looking at anything but status quo or worse.

You might be able to amuse yourself, though. "Thank you, where would I be without you?" Even without the private sarcasm, just being able to smile it off will probably get on her nerves, since all she's trying to do is get on your nerves.

You could also fight back without fighting back. for example, when she "corrects" your appearance, just smile and say, "Um, Louise? I'm XX years old."

BTW, what's with your husband's blowing you off? That seems like a much bigger problem.

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For New York in a swimsuit: If I'm understanding the question correctly, she's wondering whether it's okay for her to wear a swimsuit in public because she doesn't want to make other people feel uncomfortable when they have to look at her body. This question really set off alarm bells for me, because it sounds like the author has some fairly severe body image issues that she might need to work on.

So long as your clothing covers the parts of your body required by law and is appropriate to the occasion (e.g., wearing a bathing suit is perfect at the beach, but not at a formal dinner party), no one has the right to judge you for your body size, cellulite, skin tone, or any other physical attribute. Moreover, it's unlikely that anyone is actually looking at you in disgust anyway, because people are self-absorbed and unobservant.

If you really are athletic and look good in clothes, I have a lot of trouble believing that you look so terrible in a bathing suit as to inspire shock and discomfort in others. But if other people were to become uncomfortable looking at dimpled thighs, that's their problem, not yours, and it's not your job to wear a muumuu to make them feel better. Wear what you feel comfortable in and what is convenient for you for the activities you're doing, and don't worry about whether other people like your body.

My guess is that the letter writer is something of a perfectionist, and she is projecting her own insecurities about her body onto others. Other people are never judging us as harshly as we judge ourselves. If you believe that you are so physically disgusting that it would be impolite for you to wear a bathing suit in public, I would say you might benefit from some therapy to learn to like and accept your body better.

Carolyn Hax: Nothing to add. Many thanks.

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Cubetown, Washington, D.C.: How do you know when you're ready to date? I'm separated from my husband, and feel that the marriage is over in all the ways that count. We've said our goodbyes, divvied up our stuff and sorted through our drama. Now it's just a matter of waiting for the papers to come through.

I want to get back out there and date, but my friends tell me to put that hold until my divorce is final. Carolyn, I feel like my life's already been on hold for long enough.

What do you think?

Carolyn Hax: I'm on the record with this, that I believe the marriage is over when you and your husband agree it is.

It would be worth asking your friends, though, why they're saying to wait. It could be some of them are sticklers, in which case you're in a position to disagree--but it also could be that they fear you're rushing yourself emotionally, in which case they might be able to see something you can't. Not that you'd then have to heed their advice, just perhaps weigh it a little more carefully.

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Carolyn Hax: BTW, your life isn't "on hold." Life is life.

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For New York: I felt the same way about my body during my 30s (while raising kids and as my husband's interest in me disappeared) but one day in my mid 40s I stood naked in front of my mirror and focused on all the good things about my body.

I swear that little event changed almost everything. My husband's interest never revived, but now I'm single and proud of who I became. I'm in my bathing suit three days a week (swimming) and almost never think about the way I look compared to the 20-somethings around me.

Carolyn Hax: I'm making crowd noises and doing the wave.

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Laugh or cry?: I just saw two teenagers pull into a driveway, both busy talking to (presumably) to other people on seperate cell phones. In the same car. Talk about minimizing actual human contact.

Carolyn Hax: I'm more worried about actual fender contact.

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For Washington with buttinski soon-to-be Mother-in-law: Listen to the warning signs. If the boy ignores mothers insults now just wait until you have a baby or want to take a job in another state. Thinking mom is right over wife can be a big big issue.

Carolyn Hax: Speaking of actaul fender contact, I just realized I took it as MIL and husband, not MIL-to-be and fiance. Don't know what my brain was up to, I'm sorry.

Yes, absolutely, this is a big enough deal to warrant second thoughts about the marriage. Thanks for the save.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi, Carolyn!

I'm unhappy. I'm considering counseling, but am unsure if I should tell my wife. I'm afraid that she'll think our marriage is part of the cause (it is), and I'm not sure I can have a constructive discussion now about that part of the whole shebang. I want to be able to discuss it, but right now I think I'll cave or shut down when the going gets tough.

So, is it OK to go to counseling and not tell your SO? We're still close, so I'll feel bad about trying to hide that I'm receiving help. In our case, not volunteering info seems like lying. So, I'm torn.

What to do?

Carolyn Hax: I don't think it's okay to go without telling her. Just respond to her questions with the constructive part of the truth, that the reason you're going to counseling is to understand why you're unhappy, and that you can't explain to her what you can't even explain to yourself yet.

Obviously this is going to be hard for her to hear--and it's going to saddle her with a sense of doom she might not have if you kept her in the dark. But it just seems to me that when she learns you've secretly gone to counseling--which she will, inevitably, at some point--you'll plant the what-else-is-he-hiding-from-me vine, which is then almost impossible to uproot.

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Dating while separated: One other option may be the friends are worried about legal problems. If the couple doesn't have a legal separation agreement and her husband is a jerk (which I assume the friends would know), her dating could complicate the divorce. If he can say "adultery" it can make things ugly, even if the marriage is over "except for the paper."

Carolyn Hax: She said "it's just a matter of waiting for the papers to come through." To me that means they've signed and filed everything they need to sign and file, and it's a matter of its getting a judge's okay.

If it is as you suggest, and the friends see a loophole her STB-ex could exploit to hurt her, I think it's incumbent upon them to say something specific to that effect. Or even general, like, "Don't give X the ammunition."

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Alexandria, Va.: I hope you can get to my question today because it is eating me up inside. Ever since I moved away from home after college I have fallen further away from my family at no fault of my own. I always call and send cards and visit but finally realized it wasn't being reciprocated so I stopped for a few months and surprisingly my own mother hasn't called me for three years. I even found out from a friend that lives back home that my brother is expecting his first child and I have not even been told and I can't help but feel isolated and alone, even my own upcoming wedding. I am starting to realize that my small town family wants nothing to do with this educated city gal that makes a great living. Should I just move on with my life and my soon to be new family? Any suggestions would be helpful as I am so dejected from trying all these years.

Carolyn Hax: Two things I'd suggest: going home to talk to your mom face-to-face about this, and counseling. Not just because this is a lot for one person to process alone, but also because a good family therapist can help you explore your family Stuff and start to recognize what the dynamic is all about, and therefore why your overtures don't get reciprocated. It can also help you understand how much of it you carry around with you, and how to approach it with your new family.

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Texas: Online only pleae!

At what point does greiving become self indulgence? I know that question will make me sound like a huge jerk and I am willing to accept that. My wife's father died about 20 months ago. She is having a rough time with father's day coming up. She recently announced that she wasn't going to set foot in the grocery store or the mall until after Father's Day. It's starting to feel like she is wallowing in self pity rather than trying to move on. How do I deal with this?

Carolyn Hax: Too grief-stricken to grocery shop. I have to try that one.

Don't worry, Tex. Proximity alone says you sound just fine.

It doesn't hurt that you're also in a really tough spot. Indulge her and you'll soon inherit all of the household chores. Call her on it and you're a bully, because her grief (and/or depression, which is certainly possible) can be significant even while her tactics are risible.

Since you'll probably end up erring to one side, I'd err on the oh-brother side. But try not to err; instead, explain that hiding only prolongs pain, and that it's the job of the living to live, and that living requires food. So you'll go with her to the store.

And if she resists, look up the time and location of a reputable grief counseling center. Whether she's in genuine need or genuine wallow, it's appropriate. Good luck.

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Maryland: I'd just like to throw in that comments like "my small town family wants nothing to do with this educated city gal that makes a great living" should be where the therapist might want to start.

You could almost read that as "my hick relatives want nothing to do with me now that I'm smarter and better than they are, live in a nicer place, and make more money then they do."

Has kind of a different ring to it, doesn't it?

Carolyn Hax: I actually thought about that. But it could be she's been taking a lot of jabs from them about her education and money. I've seen it happen and it's ugly. So, I didn't want to point a finger when the proper direction wasn't clear.

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Re: Alexandria: Alexandria should not give up on her mother and her relationship with her family until she is sure that all the avenues of communication have been tried.

I went through a similar situation with my family. My mom died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack. There is no lonelier feeling in the whole world than going through the rest of your life wondering how things might have been if you had just tried something like working through a counselor to bridge the gap to your family.

Alexandria may find that there is nothing she can do, but until she KNOWS and is comfortable with the idea that she has tried everything she can, she should keep trying even if it hurts. She'll know when it's time to give up and it's obvious from the way she feels that it isn't time yet.

Carolyn Hax: A well-made point. Thanks.

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Virginia: My brother and I have a long history of not getting along. Made worse in the last few years with the birth of my daughter (and his inability to have more children). He made some lame excuse that I didn't personally call him immediately when I had my daughter and that was why he was angry. I had a c-section, it's difficult to use your cell phone on the operating table.

I am pregnant again. I called and left him a voicemail telling him that I was pregnant again. No call back from him. Was this the right or wrong way to tell him the news?

Carolyn Hax: If he wants to find something wrong with it, he will.

If you did it to avoid telling him in person, he will have a point. In that case, try him again.

If you were just doing what you'd have done with anyone else, then shrug and move on.

All you can do is what you think is right, and hope for the best.

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Washington, D.C.: Just thought I'd submit a quick comment about people asking about salaries. In some Asian cultures (like my wife's), this is a completely socially acceptable question, really no different from asking they age of your children, or what you had for dinner last night. They cannot understand at all why anyone wouldn't want to share this information. Kind of funny.

Carolyn Hax: Eggplant rollatini. Since you're all dying to know.

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Undisclosed Location: I'm probably too late for this but here goes. I find my wife attractive. She does not find her self attractive. Walks around the house saying stuff like my butt is the size of (insert large object here).

I have tried to be supportive. As a man, I don't care really what a woman looks like. If she feels good about herself that says a lot more to me about her self confidence than would someone who had what would be traditionally defined a "hot."

It's really too bad. I wish my wife veiwed herself the way I view her (this is in response to the bathing suit poster).

Carolyn Hax: No, I know exactly what you're saying--almost everyone I've ever known, male or female, feels the way you do. And yet so many people also still feel the way your wife does, and it even seems to be getting worse. I don't know what the answer is, except maybe a few million little epiphanies like the one the fortysomething swimmer had.

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Re: Semi-vacation: "I did do the chat from an Internet cafe in Paris once, which in retrospect seems akin to ruining a perfectly good bowl of ice cream with a one-hour jog."

And of course, in your analogy, the chat is the bowl of ice cream, and Paris is the one-hour jog that ruins it.

Ahhhh, we can just feel the love....

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I went to Paris once and I do this every week, and it's not only because I hate long flights.

I just don't think working on vacations is healthy, even when it's great work.

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Actuallly, just dying to know: what an eggplant rollatini is?

Carolyn Hax: Fried eggplant slices rolled around a ricotta filling, with red sauce. You need to visit New Haven.

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Asians and Salaries: I am an Asian immigrant and I must say that it is considered impolite among polite Asians to ask someone how much they make. (Certain things are universal.)

Carolyn Hax: Or, "Asian" covers an enormous percentage of the population, about which making generalizations is hopeless.

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Florida/Georgia Aves., Washington, D.C.: I think my analyst is losing interest. She never answers my questions in her online chat.

She answers lots of other people's questions.

There's a guy in Seattle who's been expressing interest. If I write to him, should I break it off with her first?

Carolyn Hax: I think he'd get a kick out of it if you didn't.

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Baltimore, Md.: Carolyn, please help me. I just got notice that I'm effectively being demoted at a job I love. My boss -- who was a big reason I love this job -- has left for a sabbatical and they're putting me "under" someone who is supposed to be at my same rank. It's clear they are trying to pave the way for a reorganization. I can't help but feel like this is a punch in the gut because it almost certainly means that I'm not going to be happy in the job I love anymore and that's a huge loss for me. How do I find a silver lining here? This job is a huge part of my life.

Carolyn Hax: Two silver lingings: 1. You don't know how things will be under the new regime until you live with it for a while. It could be your erstwhile peer will make a great boss, too. It could also be not that you were demoted, but that this person was promoted, which happens all the time.

2. "Sabbatical" means your boss will likely be back.

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Country guy to BIG City guy back to Country guy: My husband was the country bumpkin who went to the big city and made something of himself. His hometown family and friends began to contact him less and less -- till he was the only one making phonecalls and sending cards and inviting them to events.

However -- and this is a BIG however -- he never blamed them. He felt if he wanted to see his brother, he needed to call him

After nearly 27 years, with new wife in tow (me!) we moved to hometown (which had grown up all on its own.) The last five years of his mother's life, and with connections firmly restored -- the heartache that could have been never happened.

Just a thought. Don't make battles where there are none. If you want to talk to mom, call her.

Carolyn Hax: Nice thought, thanks.

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Arlington, Va.: OK Carolyn,

Mars - Venus. Battle of the Sexes. Hetero relationships seem to be so complicated due to the well documented differences between men and women.

Guys really want to know "what women want." What is it?

Carolyn Hax: Not to be treated as a foreign species? Talk to woman as you would a man. If there's something you feel you must censor, then that says to me that you're not seeing a woman as an equal, but as a thing to be handled delicately. Bleah. If you talk naturally to a woman and she finds you offensive, good--she's the last person you'd want for a relationship. And if every woman finds you offensive, then it's time to revisit your true opinion of women.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Carolyn,

First of all, love your column! I'm 31 and my mother who has been cancer free for 12 years was just diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer, it is in her lungs. Any advice on how to get through this rough time?

Carolyn Hax: Love her. Spend time with her. Get to know her as a person in a way you would never have thought to had she not gotten sick. Ask a million questions--when she has the energy to answer. And when she doesn't, tell her stories or just sit with her quietly. Surround her with her favorite things. The people who weather these rough times best are, invariably, the people who show up and take the pain. I'll be thinking about you.

And, thank you.

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Washington, D.C.: Any advice on how to stop bad choices? Up until several years ago I was pretty good at picking guys. Now I seem to pick the ones who play the hot/cold game -- they ignore me when I like them but are all over me when I'm walking out the door. I can't seem to get out of this slump. Since I'm the common denominator I can't really point my finger at them. I used to trust my judgment, and now I feel clueless. I don't know whom to trust anymore. Anytime I meet someone new I want to run the othe way before I get hurt again. I thought I was supposed to get smarter as I got older. Thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: Not really, but I imagine you'll have some constructive ones of your own if you take a breather and just immerse yourself in being single for a while. Start making decisions as if you're your only concern, see where that takes you.

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Christmas in July, Atlanta, Ga.: Old question, probably. Total of four sets of grandparents, all of which expect holiday events to be at their house. Two sets recently moved out of state, but still expect us to drive 10 hours round trip to see them for most holidays. Never mind that we generally rotate holidays and never stay home. All get unduly upset if we don't come. I am tired of spending my holidays driving to multiple places. We proposed that they all come to our house, and they got up in arms about seeing their former spouses. Any thoughts on how to deal? Makes me feel not very family friendly.

Carolyn Hax: Be it driving to see them or not, or inviting one couple or another or all or none: Do your own thing and let them deal.

It is your only (ONLY) recourse against people who get "unduly upset."

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Colorado: I work a job I hate in a call center. I go to work dreading the nine hours ahead of me. I am going back to school to change career paths and I love my classes, teachers and fellow students. At school I'm friendly and chatty. At work I'm grumpy and probably come across as a B---- to my coworkers. I have tried to change my attitude about work but I'm failing miserably and I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I'm starting to really isolate from my co-workers and they complain about me behind my back. I have to work at this job for six more months before I can afford to quit and finish school full time for a little while. What can I do bring a better attitude to work and so my coworkers can stand to be around me?

Carolyn Hax: It is this crappy job that is bringing you great classes, teachers and fellow students. Show it a little love.

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Curious question....: So, how do you normally wear your hair? Straight, like how it looks in your pic at the top of this chat? Or, wavy like the pic on the main page at the post.com? The wavy suits you.

Carolyn Hax: In wired braids, Pippi Longstocking. But, thanks!

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Washington, D.C.: I am in the home stretch of wedding planning -- getting hitched in two weeks. Finding myself very distracted and pre-occupied all the time, plus general anxiety. No cold feet or anything, just a worry-wart about logistics. Any words of wisdom to help me RELAX and avoid burning out before the big day?

Carolyn Hax: Logistical glitches generally don't ruin parties. Worrying about logistical glitches generally does ruin parties. Go see a stupid movie or something.

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Carolyn Hax: And expunge "big day" from your lexicon.

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totally bored at work, so...: Thanks for the extra-long chat today, Carolyn! You should go "on vacation" all the time!!

Carolyn Hax: No, thank you! But I am leaving now. See you next Friday.

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Come On: I have to respond to all the posters writing about Ecucated City Girl being snubbed by her family and intimating it's her fault or that she should just go on making the calls. No normal, loving mother would go THREE YEARS without contacting her daughter if she didn't hear from her. City Girl has made a consistent effort, and unless she's murdered one of her siblings and failed to mention it, she doesn't deserve this ostracism.

I have a friend with a family somewhat like the City Girl's family, and it's painful and unfair and hurtful. And while I don't have a solution for City Girl, it's important to know that (1) this is not your fault, (2) it's not normal, and (3) your sadness and feeling of isolation IS normal. There may not be a solution that fixes the situation, and you may have to finally accept that everyone has burdens in their life, less-than-ideal situations like never finding a soul mate or not being able to have children, and this is yours. It sucks, and I'm glad to hear you're starting your own family now, which I'm sure will heal the hurt a little bit, if not totally.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you.

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For correcting MIL: "Wow, that's interesting. I've never heard that word pronounced that way. Thanks for letting me know that there's an alternative!"

Subliminal message: MIL's way isn't necessarily and more right/wrong than anyone else's. Should drive her nuts.

Carolyn Hax: Narsty--I like it. Thanks.

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