washingtonpost.com
Tell Me About It

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 26, 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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Los Angeles, Calif.: A friend is getting married in July. I'm in the wedding (so a $300 dress) and hosting a shower at a nice restaurant. Just got ivited to the bachelorette party in Las Vegas which will run about $500. I'm really feeling pinched for money and would rather bow out of that. How horrible of a friend would I be?

Carolyn Hax: A horrible friend is one who makes her bridesmaid feel bad for not being able to afford a $500 bachelorette party.

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My apartment STILL: Carolyn!

Happy Friday!

I can't seem to make myself stop moping around the house even though i know it isn't helping me feel better. Got anything to help me make myself get dressed and go do stuff in the world?

Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: Pick one thing you'd really like to do if you left the house. Then pick one thing you'd really like to do if you stayed home. Now choose, one or the other. That way, even if you decide to blow off the whole day, you're making your time count for something. That's the killer about moping--you get all indecisive and end up feeling bad without even any rest to show for it.

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Am I an awful person?: If you say so, I'll believe it. Here's the situation. A very good friend got engaged on New Year's eve and began planning a June wedding. It was a destination wedding that was going to cost quite a lot, but a bunch of us decided that we deserved a bit of fun, so we planned on going for the whole week and rented a house. Flights were reserved, deposits made, we're all looking forward to it.

Last week, the friend announced that the wedding was off. They have things to work out and thought it best to postpone the marriage until they're both sure. Frankly, I feel it's a smart thing and getting married with any reservations is a mistake.

In the midst of being a supportive friend and talking through this difficult situation, my friend apologized that we wouldn't be getting to go on our vacation after all. I told her we were still planning on going. (We had, as a group, talked about it, but there was no way to get our money back, and some people changed their entire summer plans to go.)

I thought she might be a little surprised, but didn't expect the reaction I did get. I'll spare you the profanity, but basically, if we go, we are to consider our friendship with her over and we will not be invited to the wedding when it does happen. I tried to explain that it wasn't a small thing--cancelling a trip like that, but she said if we were real friends, we would.

I'm really torn. I can see if it was in her hometown, or someplace that was important to them as a couple that there would be a big emotional investment, but she picked the place because she wanted everyone to make a vacation out of it. We planned to, at no small expense of time and money, and are now expected to take a hit. I guess I'm also thinking that if the wedding was being cancelled because of some tragic circumstance, that would be one thing, but a postponement becuase of uncertainty is something else.

What do you think? Should I not go? My friends have all pretty much decided they will, and hope the ex-bride will come around. I just don't know if she will, and wonder if a friendship is worth a week at the beach.

Carolyn Hax: You're not awful. Going makes sense.

I imagine some people have already decided the ex-bride is awful (and she probably is, given the profanity and threats--I mean really), but I can also see how I would feel awful in her place: already at a low point from ditching my wedding, and then hearing that all my closest friends were going to go off on a great vacation together without me.

Now, would I say this to my friends out loud? I certainly hope not. I hope I'd have the character to say, great, I think that's the only thing that makes sense, and I'm glad you aren't losing a bunch of money on me. But I'd be bummed.

So I'm wondering (with some trepidation). Did any of you invite her to join you? She's got a ticket too, presumably.

The trepidation, of course, is that some people might think it insensitive to expect someone to go to the scene of the heartbreak for a vacation. (People who, say, hurl expletives at their friends for behaving rationally.) But if she has any appreciation at all for the whole lemons-to-lemonade thing, I don't know, maybe it'll bring her back from the ledge.

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Washington, D.C.: I don't particularly like my wife's family, and they don't particularly like me, but we all love my wife so we try to get along as best we can. Still not liking them is making me want to skip the annual Memorial Day barbecue. Do you think I should skip it because I'd rather stay home and watch TV, or go because my wife would rather have me there?

Carolyn Hax: How many times a year are you asked to play nice? This is important.

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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn,

My mother died last fall without a will. Now the relationship with my siblings is strained. There are six of us all together. One brother is deceased. My two sisters have always lived at home except for a brief period of time over 25 years ago. Mother was in good health prior to her death. My mother paid the household expenses (mortgage, utilities, food, car note) without financial assistance from my sisters.

Shortly before her death mother was in the process of changing the beneficiary on her life insurance policy so that her five surviving children will receive equal shares. Unfortunately, she died before the insurance agent was able to present her the paperwork. As a result my sisters were the sole beneficiaries of the insurance policy. Initially, they said that they would carry out our mother's wishes, but after receiving the checks, they changed their minds.

My oldest sister is the family's personal representative with the court. The problem is that her response to our inquiries regarding the estate are vague and evasive. Example. Mother had a car. I was interested in purchasing the car. When I asked her what was the mileage she would not give me a number. Not even a ballpark number. Her only response was "it's low". Example 2. She wants to purchase the home, but does not want to pay the current fair market value. She refuses to tell me what was the appraised value of the home. In my frustration I hired an attorney to represent my interests. Now my brothers are distancing themselves from me. My sisters have stopped talking to me.

Am I being unreasonable?

Carolyn Hax: Which do you care about more, the assets or the relationships? Because your sister is making it clear that it's either-or.

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Washington, D.C.: My boyfriend got mad at me yesterday when I came home from a long day of work, went into the kitchen, found a pile of dirty dishes with a ton of roaches crawling all over them and I yelled. I didn't didn't swear or call names. I was just shocked at the nastiness of it and I yelled "this is disgusting! you know you can't leave dirty dishes around or the roaches will come out." I aplogized later for raising my voice, and tried to explain to him how it was just the initial shock at seeing all those roaches... but he's still really upset that I "yelled at him." I don't feel like I have anger issues (I don't yell all the time about everything... I think this was a justified reason to be annoyed), but he's making me feel like I need to run to the therapist for anger management. What do you think?

Carolyn Hax: I think if you don't do it often and you apologized sincerely, he needs not only to accept your apology and drop the issue, but also acknowledge his responsibility by apologizing for the pile of dirty dishes (assuming, obviously, that you do your share of the chores and don't make a habit of expecting him to do all the cleaning). That is what an adult would do, at least, and there are some roaches whispering to me that your boyfriend hasn't grown up yet.

Possibly the true origin of the yell?

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Regarding today's column...: about the woman (?) whose friends fell away from her during a very difficult time, often people don't know what to say, and therefore don't say anything at all. And maybe speaking to you reminds them of the fragility of their own lives.

Not to justify that behavior, but it doesn't necessarily mean they're fair-weather friends, just inept ones.

If she chooses to respond them, it could be cathartic to say something like "I'm glad you're reaching out. I felt very alone/forgotten about/dropped like a bad habit."

Carolyn Hax: Good suggestion, thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: It's me again, with the wife's family's barbecue. I'd guess I'm asked to play nice about once a month, on average. What is the standard number of times per year in this type of situation?

Carolyn Hax: There is no standard, because there's no standard distance traveled to see family, nor is there a standard level of closeness (or expectation thereof).

I asked because if you see them only a few times a year, you suck it up. If your seeing them is fairly routine, you can skip an event here or there. So, it sounds like you can skip this one, especially since the Fourth is also bearing down upon us and you can make it up to everyone then.

That said: You did include the fact that it would make your wife happy if you went. Just from what you told me, I think it would be perfectly fair if you got two months off a year in return for playing nice the other 10. However, if this is item 1, 2 or 3 on the short list of things your wife really cares about, you just go, and be glad you did, for her.

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Carolyn,

Which shoes should I wear tonight? The fabulous ones or the comfy ones?

Carolyn Hax: Dinner out, or mambo marathon?

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Crystal City, Va.: I think the cancelled destination wedding guest who wrote in is completely rational. I have seen other guests who, in that situation, demanded that the bride reimburse them for their travel expenses that they couldn't get refunded. Imagine how the bride in the previous post would've reacted to that!

Carolyn Hax: I think we'd all be testifying.

There's a -zilla for every role in a wedding, isn't there.

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Washington, D.C.: Can you help me get some perspective? I had a baby a few months ago and realized that, by working ridiculous hours, I've totally missed out on life. I'm thinking of leaving my big firm job as a lawyer for one in the government. I'd be going to the government for better hours and good experience. However, now that the opportunity is actually mine, I'm starting to second guess myself. Husband and I are trying to decide whether it's better for me to go part time at my firm, thereby leaving more time for the family/social life I have totally missed out on for the past several years. I realize that I'm the one who has to make this decision, but it's just overwhelming me. How do I do this so we're not looking back in 3 months wishing we'd done the opposite?

Carolyn Hax: One way to outmaneuver regrets when you're making a decision is to try on whichever option allows you to keep your other options open--which you can then pursue if the first one doesn't fit. This isn't always possible--choosing between wedding proposal A and and job transfer B, for example. But in your case it sounds like you can stay at your firm, try on the part-time life, and if you don't like it then apply (again?) for gvt jobs.

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Re: "Regarding Today's Column": Not everyone accept the "I feel like I've been neglected lately" very well. Just a forewarning. When I tried to explain the same to some friends after they all but abandoned me in a difficult time, I got some pretty defensive answers.

I understand it's hard to know what to say when someone is going through a bad time, but dropping them like a bad habit, then expecting them to totally forget about that is a pretty tall order.

I will say that I have since gained many new and stronger friendships since my hardship, and realized that many of the "fair weather friends" really were just that. Rarely do I miss them much now (more than a year later).

Carolyn Hax: It's a useful warning, thanks, but it's also a useful step in the process if friends do react badly. Then you'll know you tried but that there wasn't enough friendship there to save.

Useful and painful, but one helps with the other.

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Washington, D.C.: Carolyn-

My dad is dying. It has been a long, gut-wrenching winter and now spring. Today is one of those days where it is all getting to me. Just wanted to tell someone who understands.

Carolyn Hax: I do. And I wish I had some magic answer for you, but the reason these times are so awful is that you're ruthlessly denied any magic, or even hope of magic. Just remind yourself that it takes great love to feel great pain, and the pain is the one that will fade.

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Washington, D.C.: The firm/fed dilemma - One important thing to consider is that law firms are not really respectful of time. That is, part-time may not be possible. There's always something that keeps you there extra. And often, if you insist on working the hours you're scheduled for, you're seen as "not a team player."

Working for the Feds has its own problems, but you are much more likely to actually work the hours you're scheduled to work and get to go home on time.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. I had assumed since it was possible, then it was possible. Remember, I've been away from DC for a while.

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Rockville, Maryland: Is it the world or am I alone?

"...and I yelled."

I think there are times when one should yell. Others seem to think this should never be done. Ever.

Why not?

"Watch out!" saves lives.

Carolyn Hax: Obviously people have to yell sometimes, "Watch out!" being the obvious example.

But I don't think this is so much a matter of should or shouldn't, but instead a matter of being human. Every once in a while, a person is going to lose it, and that person doesn't suddenly cease being a good person (assuming s/he was to begin with). So to hold it against someone who is not a yeller and who happens to lose it one day and yell, and who apologizes for it later, is to deny that person the right to be human. (The distinctions the yeller made in telling this story were really important though--no name calling in particular.)

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Mother had no will: Isn't it more complicated? Family relationships always are...Maybe the oldest sister feels she deserves more than just an equal share since she mostly took care of Mom. So maybe this is her way of staking her claim. Did other sibs help out?

Carolyn Hax: Probably is more complicated, and you offer a good theory, but even if it's true the sister is handling it abominably. If she has something to say, she should say it.

And, frankly, if she was doing this for a payoff, she's even more in the wrong than it already appears.

And frankly 2, if it was a labor of love and she wasn't in it for the money but is just really angry that everyone just expected her to do all the tending and never offered to help, and is therefore using the money as a way to show her anger, then we go back to item one: If she has something to say, she should say it.

Did I get it all in there?

Either way, the sib who wrote in still needs to decide if there is anything of value to be gained by fighting this battle.

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Yeller vs. Non-Yeller: I am a yeller. I have yelled my entire life. I dated a non-yeller who initially thought that every time I raised my voice ("WOULD YOU LOOK AT THIS DRESS? GEEZ, WHO IN GOD'S NAME WOULD WEAR SOMETHING LIKE THIS?") I was angry at him.

Fortunately, after a few months, he realized that I never called anyone names, I was never actually angry when I yelled (I get very very quiet when I'm angry), and it was just a personality thing.

We've been married five years now. I've become a little less of a yeller; he has become much more of one. We yell happily to one another. It's great. And no, we don't yell at one another in public.

Carolyn Hax: I just hope you don't live in an apartment.

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Regarding today's column: I'm not paranoid enough to think today's writer was my sister, but if it WERE: The reason we all pulled away is because her "serious life threatening illness" was no such thing. After 30 years of fake health crisis dramas, suicide threats, an "attempt" at suicide involving Tylenol instead of the equally accessible sleeping pills, depression that magically lifts when people buy her stuff, and a total inability to think of other people...

WE GAVE UP. We includes her husband of eleven years, her family, and her friends. She has been told in writing and in person that we love her, but she either gets her schtuff together or she finds new people to use.

I'm really sorry about her cat, though.

Carolyn Hax: Unfortunately, there's no need for you to worry that today's writer was your sister, because this happens a lot.

Which brings us back to the recurring point that the first thing you do when eeeeverybody disappears is look in the mirror. Not that it's always the "victim's" fault, just that sometimes it can be. Or, it can just be a sign that some other part of you needs work, like your taste in friends or your expectations of friends who maybe, when you're honest with yourself, were never really that close.

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Washington, D.C.: Trusts & estate lawyer here, who sees the situation described by your poster a lot. Just a comment: by clearly making it an either-or, your sisters are telling you they value the assets more than the relationship. So...

You are absolutely entitled, by law, to know the appraised value of the house (as of the date your mother died) and the current value (current value is what will be used for distribution purposes, or if you want to buy it). Insist, through your lawyer, on getting the appraised, date-of-death value, then ask a real estate agent for an opinion on current value. Then decide if there's enough money at stake to fight over, measured against your own peace of mind (because litigation, esp. of this kind, is a long, expensive and draining process), not against the relationships that your sisters are already devaluing.

At my hourly rate, this is a lot more than my $.02.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. My concern, though, were the other siblings involved, the ones who aren't themselves hoarding the estate but are obviously upset by the fact that it's come to lawyers over a used car. People don't like to see their families self-destruct, even the wouldn't-exactly-call-them-functional families. Families are the guardians of memory, and it can be profoundly unsettling to watch as pages get ripped away.

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Mother left no will: The poster said that their mother was in good health, so I took that to mean that the death was sudden. It sounded like the mother was taking care of the sister (she was living with the mother, and not contributing anything financially) instead of the other way around.

Carolyn Hax: I know, I thought of that. It's certainly possible. But it's also possible the mother required more care than the off-site siblings realized. At some ages, you can be in great health and still need a fair amount of attention.

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Confused: My boyfriend likes to say nonsense words. All the time. This annoys the hell out of me. Am I irritable and mean?

washingtonpost.com: Glippity gloo glod!

Carolyn Hax: Rarin.

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Carolyn Hax: Okay, real answer: If you're with him only because you think it's wrong to leave someone over something so minor, then you need to break up. There is nothing minor about being perpetually annoyed.

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For the New Mom Lawyer: Oooh! I'd like to put in my 2 cents as a long-time big firm lawyer:

I think the culture of your big firm matters a great deal. Are there other women (or men) there who work part time? Are they still on the partnership track? Do people respect them? Would you trust the same partners who supervised your no-outside-life hours to respect and enforce your part-time work schedule? Or do you think you'd be asked to carry a greater workload.

And, think of how excited you are about the government position. They aren't entirely easy to come by. If you really want it, I'd think hard about it.

Having said that, some firms really support part time work. Good luck to you!

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, makes a lot of sense, even up here in New Academia.

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For Washington D.C. with dishes in the sink: Carolyn,

I agree with your supposition that the boyfriend has not finished growing up, but I saw red in his trying to convince her she's got an anger problem. Do you think it's possible he's a controlling/manipulative sort as well as a slob?

Was married to one...

Carolyn Hax: For all the people who think I see control and manipulation in every problem, take a stretch break.

Yes, it's possible. The leaving of the dishes would then be an element of the problem--a passive-aggressive way of making someone else essentially take care of him.

It would take more context to see whether he's sinister or merely spoiled.

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Washington, D.C.: I never understand what you mean by the word "rarin". Please explain?

Carolyn Hax: It's authentic frontier gibberish from "Blazing Saddles."

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Away from D.C.?: I didn't realize... where are you?

Carolyn Hax: Connecticut. But I'm coming back eventually.

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RE: Washington, D.C.: The firm/fed dilemma : Just saying - I'm a fed and they don't really respect my time. It all depends on your boss and where you work. I work law firm hours for government attorney pay.

Carolyn Hax: That sounds painful.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Carolyn,

Bit of a circular problem here - I'm not comfortable speaking to people I don't know and because of this I don't make new friends. I would like to though! I have a few close friends, but mostly just acquaintances. How can I motivate myself to become more talkative?

Carolyn Hax: Two things. 1. Put yourself in a position to see the same people regularly, ideally where there's some easy group activity to focus on when you're feeling awkward. This is why teams and volunteering always come up around this question--you can get to know people slowly by seeing them, say, once a week, and you can keep nervous hands busy with fielding, cooking, sorting, envelope-stuffing, whatever.

2. Get to know your inner dork. Speaking to people is going to involve saying some wrong or stupid things. It just will. So remind yourself that everyone says stupid things on the way to getting comfortable, and just go for it. Also, treat each little small-talk episode as just that. If you look at each one as a potential friend, you'll feel pressured and you'll choke.

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Tylenol Suicide Attempt: Tylenol taken in large quantity (over 10 or 12) can cause fatal liver damage. Sleeping pills take a lot of alcohol to truly be effective. ANY attempt is a serious cry for help. Depression lifts when someone buys her stuff, sounds like bipolar not depression. If your sick of her drama why not just ask "why would you want to do this to yourself?" It could open the door to good mental health for her. After you ask....then you can walk away! I had 25 yeas living like that then someone finally asked me that simple question. I'll always be bipolar, which is very treatable but that single question changed the course and 15 years and counting with good mental health.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for a different perspective.

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Naperville, Ill.: Regarding the splitting of housework with my spouse, do I really have to do half of it? Even if I'm more than willing to pay for someone to come in and clean our home? Even if I gladly do way more than half of some other things, like working full time while my spouse has been a full-time student?

Carolyn Hax: Fairness isn't in the fractions, it's in the mutual sense that each contributes his share to the joint life you lead.

For example, no, you don't have to clean when you're willing to hire someone to do it.

But paying someone doesn't reduce -your- share just because you can pay and spouse can't. It reduces the overall burden, and therefore each of your shares.

Also, be careful with the full-time-student thing. Unless it's education as hobby, being a student -is- a job, just one with the cash flow reversed. The only way to be fair in meting out responsibilities in the case of worker-student is to look at the hours, exertion and, in some cases, the sacrifices for the greater good of the marriage. In other words, sometimes a full-time student is sucking it up for a better life for the family, and sometimes the worker is sucking it up for a better life for the student. I'm not encouraging bean-counting, just saying that gratitude does have its place in the distribution of chores.

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Re: Making Friends: Carolyn,

I have the same problem coupled with some anxiety that makes me literally flee in some social situations.

A suggestion: say yes. On more than one occasion I came in as the new guy to an established group and I was invited to join in on an activity or meal and said "no" because I had other things to do. It took a long time to realise the other things aren't as important and "no" should be a last resort.

Carolyn Hax: Great point, thanks.

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Shyness problem: I used to be incredibly shy. I got tired of it, and I forced myself to get involved in activities just like you said. It worked wonders for me. And if I got an invitation to a party or get-together, I went even though I was uncomfortable. But guess what? I got good at asking people about themselves. Yeah it was awkward at first and probably seemed a little forced. But people like talking about themselves. Ask a few questions and you'll be surprised at what a great conversation you can get started.

And sometimes I just go do stuff alone, like see an art exhibit, and that's something you can always bring up for conversation. 'Hey, have you seen the great exhibit at whereever gallery?' And you know what happens? Eventually you make a new friend who likes art galleries just like you do. And then you have a friend to go to an art show with. It takes some time. Not everyone is going to respond to you. So be patient with yourself.

Carolyn Hax: Great stuff, thanks.

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Re: Dish Boy: Maybe he just didn't feel like doing the dishes or maybe he is tired of being treated like a child. I think there is more to the story. Anger people don't think they have an anger problem. It is always the other persons fault.

I have news for her, it does not matter if you leave a dirty dish out or not. The roaches will still come out, what do you think they do at night. I suggest they move to a place that does not have roaches.

Carolyn Hax: "Anger people don't think they have an anger problem. It is always the other persons fault."

Which means he could be the anger person accusing her of the anger problem. Not taking sides; just observing.

I still think an uncharacteristic yell followed by a sincere apology is a non-issue.

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Chicago, Ill.: Am I a terrible daughter if I bring up my mother's own past actions when she "suggests" what I should do with my life? I don't say anyting mean to her, or bring up stuff she did wrong -- just point out that she wants things for me that she didn't want for herself when she was my age (specifically a big wedding and children while I'm still in my 20s when she got married by a judge and didn't have me and my sister until she was mid-30s).

Carolyn Hax: No, not a terrible daughter, but I think you're throwing gas on a fire by dredging up her old stuff. Instead, I'd go with, "Mom, you had the chance to make your own decisions, and all I ask of you now is that same chance."

FWIW, though, she can't make these decisions for you. She can only pressure you, which, yes, is really obnoxious, but it's not binding in any way. Keep making your own decisions and if Mom won't butt out, then give her less opportunity to butt in (and less of a reaction when she does. "Yah, okay, thanks," can be surprisingly effective against "suggestions." It's an intimacy-killer, too, unfortunately, but so is "suggesting.")

A slightly more radical suggestion that you might want to try first: Have you heard her out? "Mom, why is it so important to you that I have X?" Maybe it'll be enough for her just to feel as if she's been heard. Even if it isn't enough, you'll at least have information that will improve the conversation next time she gets on your nerves--even if it's just to say that you understand where she's coming from, but it's something you need to find out for yourself.

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To old yeller: I'm so glad you found someone, and it wasn't me. People who like to vent on others, sneeze in their faces, break wind publicly, or whatever are an abomination.

Sure you feel good when you do it.

But who else does?

Carolyn Hax: If you break wind publicly, I'll laugh. Especially if you do it in a quiet library during exam week.

I move this chat to Tuesday once and look what happens.

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Angry Spouse and Dish Boy: But she said she's a "yeller." Does it all the time. Who could possibly want to hear that, except a masochist?

Carolyn Hax: No, didn't say she was a yeller--I think you're mixing up your posts. Didn't say she was a she, either, for that matter, though the percentages suggest it.

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Washington, D.C.: I am planning to retire next March from the government. I'll be 58. However, I don't know how to decide what I want to do then. I know I don't want to "relax" forever, I'll get bored. Can you think of a rational way to decide what to do in retirement? I have always done what was expected of me. Figuring out what I want to do is hard for me. Thank you

Carolyn Hax: It's hard for everyone, I think, who doesn't just stumble across a great thing.

I'd start by thinking about what you enjoy doing--and don't limit it to work or hobbies, but really get into your mind. What chores do you like vs. loathe, what part of the newspaper do you turn to, what do you gravitate to when you're stressed, what is the common ground in the friendships you enjoy the most, what do you collect, what talent/skill/knack do you have that friends/colleagues/your kids seek out in you?

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Roach-Free Zone: What's the rent on the place that does not have roaches? After chasing one around in the altogether this morning while I was supposed to be slowly waking up in the shower, I'm interested!

Carolyn Hax: Who was in the altogether, you or the roach?

Either way, I think the rent in neighboring buildings went up.

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Washington, D.C.: Enough of the young folks' problems, how about helping out someone married almost 25 years who hasn't been happy or a long time and now with the kids in or out of college (except for being home in the summertime)feels it's time to move on and be happy? Suck it up and give the new life a chance or make a move now because life is short? And how do you make such a basic decision when ther are so many complex variables... station in life, church, money, etc., etc.?

Carolyn Hax: You don't decide, at least not at first. If you can't decide then you're not ready.

Once you start leaning one way, then make the decision, keep it locked tight in your mind, and live with it for a while. By a while I mean weeks, months, however long it takes for you to get a full grasp of what you'd be getting and what you'd be giving up with your chosen course. Some of it can be only speculation, but still I think you'll find yourself growing comfortable even with ideas. It's when you first start entertaining an idea that it's scariest.

Sorry for the long unhappiness. I think (or maybe just hope) either way that letting yourself imagine a new way of life will help bring you one, whether you stay or go.

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Re: Yelling: One time my 12-year-old daughter came into the living room and started to plant her fanny on the couch.

"KIRA!" I yelled (that's her name). "STOP! GET AWAY! DON'T SIT THERE! DON'T SIT DOWN!"

"Mother, that is so RUDE! Don't you know there are better ways of talking to someone than yelling at them?" She fumed, and flounced down on the couch, glaring at me.

"I'm sorry, I just thought you might not want to sit on the hairball the cat puked on the couch," I told her in my meekest voice. About that time she started to feel it soaking through her pants, and she jumped up and started screaming at me because I was 'bout rolling on the floor with laughter.

Sometimes, ya just gotta yell. And you're gonna have somebody mad at you no matter what. JMO.

Carolyn Hax: It would have been much funnier if her name had been Frank, but I'll take it.

And run. Thanks everybody, have a swell long weekend (or nonexistent one if you're an overworked big-firm or government lawyer), and type to you next Friday.

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Re Tylenol Suicide Attempt: Speaking as a professional in the mental health field, I can say that this person does not sound bipolar. She sounds like she has borderline personality disorder. This can be treated with some medications, but mostly through therapy. People with borderline personality disorder often attempt suicide and do other things for attention. This problem needs to be addressed.

Carolyn Hax: Speaking as a nonprofessional, I can say this is a great reminder to everyone to be thorough in seeking proper health care, for yourselves or for family and friends. Different people see different things, illnesses get misdiagnosed and misinformation gets mixed in with the good stuff.

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Retirement: If you died tomorrow, what would you most regret -not- accomplishing? That's what you should do in retirement. It can be community involvement, mending a relationship with a family member, writing the great American novel, etc.

Carolyn Hax: Interesting take, thanks.

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