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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 15, 2007; 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 an ex-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.

This Week's Columns: Sun.| Wed.| Fri.

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Fairfax, Va.: One quibble with today's column. The "slop" that the guy eats is probably what he learned to eat at home. Blame his parents for not educating his palate, not him.

On the other hand, the moping and complaining are clearly out of line. I had a roomie whose mother was a terrible cook, and basically made the same things as the guy in the column. But after 3 years of effort on the part of his friends, he was eating everything. He was interested in learning - which is the difference between him and the moper.

Carolyn Hax: Explains my answer exactly. Thanks, and for the quibble, too.

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Couple Friendships, Washington, D.C.: My husband has longtime friends with a guy I do not like. My husband is aware that I do not like him and has a vague idea of the reason why. The guy is aware of what he did and has apologized but for my own sense of personal safety I will do anything I can to avoid being in his presence. This guy is married to a woman I do not like much either (drug user/drunk) but I am certainly civil to her. Anyway, I do not care if my husband want to go hang out with this guy and play basketball etc., but I will not do 'couple' things with them so when this pair keeps inviting us over for dinner, I won't go. I have told my husband that he can go if he wants but to tell them that I am busy. After using this approach for several months, they've now asked us to pick a night when we aren't busy and they will have us over then. Obviously the truth is too harsh ("I won't come to your house because your husband got drunk, grabbed me, & tried to rip off my shirt while you were passed out in the next room and only because someone walked in was I able to get away") but they don't really seem able to take the subtle hint that I will always be too busy.

What would you say?

Carolyn Hax: I would say, why is your husband only vaguely aware of what happened?

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Today's Column: Did they never eat together/cook together before moving in with each other? How long have they known each other? That just seems like a huge divide, one that might have been apparent before cohabitation.

Carolyn Hax: Probably, but it's so easy to dismiss something like this as minor or normal or to invoke the dread, "All relationships are hard work." It's also easy to dismiss it as a food thing when it's really an attitude thing, which has much larger implications, if only because it's then much more likely to be an intractable problem.

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San Francisco, Calif.: Hi Carolyn: One of my closest friends had her first baby last week, but while she's back at home, he had to have surgery and is still in the NICU, and will be there for at least another week or two (and that's if all goes well). Do you or the other chatters have any suggestions for what her friends can do for her, either now or when he comes home?

Carolyn Hax: Offer rides to the NICU if she's not cleared to drive yet; bring dinners she can freeze and reheat as needed; run errands, water plants, feed/walk pets--anything that you'd want done if you were going to be away from home for an indefinite amount of time. When she comes home, it'll be a whole new list, but still along the lines of simplifying her life for her. Good of you to ask.

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Seattle, Wash.: I would love it if we could hear from the non-healthy eater in today's column for one of your he said/she said columns. I think there might be a whole other side to this story (I'm imagining a food-police mommy figure who thinks her diet is the only possible healthy/right one).

Carolyn Hax: Crossed my mind. (I like my veggies, too, but if you take my butter and half-and-half away, I might hurt you.) Which is why I would like people to write in with he said/she said problems. More more more. I need a lot of them. Thanks.

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Up north: I was introduced to a girl through a friend. Thought she was nice, was looking to meet people since I'd just moved, so we hung out once or twice. (Also, fyi -- I'm not a guy, this was a making-new-friends experience.)

Anyway, realized that she and I had nothing in common other than our mutual friend -- she likes to party, go clubbing, get drunk, etc. I stopped hanging out with her and have not attempted any contact, since I don't want to hang out with someone who's end goal for the night is to get wasted and laid.

However, I've learned through Mutual Friend that this girl doesn't have a lot of friends anymore for various reasons, which is why I am a person she frequently calls/texts to do things (but I never respond). However, now I and Mutual Friend are starting to feel guilty... he is also drawing away from her, but without him she has "no one." Again -- not only a heavy drinker, but she also has a medical condition and is unhealthily overweight and has gotten in trouble with the law for drunk driving.

To what degree of responsibility do I have for someone I barely know and don't want anything to do with? Next time she calls, what am I supposed to say: "I don't like your personality and you're going to kill yourself if you keep drinking?"

Carolyn Hax: You aren't responsible for her, though certainly you can be the Look-sayer. As in, "Look, you're really nice. But we don't enjoy the same things--you like to go clubbing and party, and these aren't things I do." Given that she keeps calling even though you haven't responded, beware of getting sucked in deeper than that. This is someone who is not responding typically to typical social signals. It's sad but it's also a red flag for someone like you who is not close to her.

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Reston, Va.: Hi Carolyn,

I'm an avid reader, and I'm hoping you can help me. My father passed away at age 64 unexpectedly this past March. I miss him unbelievably, and am not looking forward to Sunday. Any advice on how to march on through, and what should I do for my mother, who will probably struggle on Sunday also?

Carolyn Hax: Don't march. Remember him, honor him, celebrate him, cry, but don't march. Think of it as visiting a gravesite. It doesn't change the fact that someone's gone, it doesn't stop the world from turning, it's just an invitation to bring someone to the front of your mind for a while. Since it sounds like he's already there, I doubt Sunday will bring any surprises you haven't already shown yourself you can handle.

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Relative of the Groomville: Bridezilla or Just How Things Are Done Now? Relative is getting married later this summer. This is the first wedding in our family in more than a decade. Mother of the Groom has just learned that bride expects to choose her dress for her. MOG played nice, tried the chosen dress, hated it and told bride she'd prefer to choose her own. Bride cried. Eventually relented and said MOG could choose own dress but wanted to sign off on it first. Has since rejected every dress MOG finds. With last rejection, bride said, "honestly, I want you to wear the one I picked." Is it standard procedure now for the bride to treat her wedding like a theater production where she gets to costume everyone? If so, MOG will shut up and wear dress she hates.

Carolyn Hax: In my Happyland, MOG will sit down with Bride and ask what is this really about? Because the wedding is about the joining together of two unique souls and all the attendant mold-breakers known as their two families. And so trying to get every sloppy human detail to fit the bride's vision of perfection is not only an invitation for crushed expectations--on what should be a joyous day--it also denies what's most beautiful about a wedding: the picture painted by throwing all these people together in celebration.

"So I'll be choosing my own dress, thank you, because you have more important things to think about, such as the rest of your life with my son."

Okay. So that's just my vision of Happyland. But hey it's my show.

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Re Couple Friendships: Um, why is your husband still friends with the guy? I would think that even with being "vaguely familiar" of what happened, he'd cut the guy out of your lives.

Carolyn Hax: That's what I was looking for. It sounds to me like he doesn't know more because she didn't say more because she's trying not to "interfere" with the friendship? Which would be a mistake on her part, not to be completely honest with her husband given the apparent violence of the attack. I'm just guessing though ... Liz, have you heard back from that poster?

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Anywhere, USA: About Wednesday's post: Hey Carolyn,

I'm writing in response to Wednesday's column about being the ugly friend. Throughout college, I was the other occupant in a dorm room whose other bed was filled by a perfectly proportioned, perfectly complected supermodel. They were all nice to me, and I was never jealous. I learned a lot from each of them even though I never made it past one semester with anyone.

One morning, my roomie toddered off to the shower, post conquest. Her suitor, who looked just about ready for his cover shot for Abercrombie and Finch, roused, rolled over, looked at me and said, "Why is she so____" and I forget the word he used. Some little personality quirk he didn't like. And I answered, "She's normal. She does stupid shit. She says stupid shit. She can be annoying and insensitive just like anyone else. She's just pretty. Just because she's perfect on the outside doesn't mean she's perfect on the inside."

And he nods like I've just offered him some great truth about the universe. I have a limp due to an orthopedic condition. My hair is graying. I like it. If I was too perfect on the outside, stupid people who judge just by appearances would want to whistle me into their lives only to be put out when I got a zit or didn't know something they thought should be common knowledge. I liked my roommates, but I didn't envy them. They had it a lot tougher than me. People who date me are going to be accepting and realistic by definition.

Carolyn Hax: I want to laminate this. Thank you.

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MOG dress: Bride picks the color. MOG picks the style. Please people, it's not rocket science.

Carolyn Hax: Okay, but be patient with the rest of us while we figure things out for ourselves.

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To: Groomsville: Now, aren't we assuming here that the bride is being overbearing. What if the MoG has really really hideous taste in dresses. Be honest, we all know someone like that. Maybe the bride is trying to find some solution to a difficult problem of a woman in a wedding party with no taste.

Carolyn Hax: The solution to the difficult problem is TO LET HER WEAR HER HIDEOUS DRESS. Brides, grooms, you are NOT DIRECTORS and this is NOT YOUR LIFE MOVIE. If you put Ugly Dress Mama in a nice dress to clean up your pictures, your pictures will capture exactly what you produced: a fraud for your own self-inflation. Same goes for the pink-haired teenage bridesmaid, the usher who overslept and forgot his cummerbund, and whatever other variables completely outside your control that you're allowing to invade your sleep.

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Alexandria, Va.: I just got word last night that my boyfriend of six months has decided to take a job offer somewhere else. This is like the rug being pulled out from under me. He hadn't mentioned anything about this -- no interview, no nothing. So I am completely surprised. We didn't quite break up but I'm supposed to have taken last night to think about how "we" are going to proceed and get back to him today. PLEASE help. He'll be about 2 hours away so it's not impossible. I really thought this relationship was going to last but what bothers me is the lack of him mentioning any of this in the first place. He didn't think he'd get it, so that's why he didn't mention it. But now it's happening. What to say to him?

Carolyn Hax: Tell him you used last night to think about it and you're still upset that he went so far as interviewing without saying anything to you. If his response isn't satisfying, then say his response isn't satisfying.

I feel like a football coach, scripting the opening drive.

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MOG Dress: MOG picks dress and offers to show it to bride for approval. Bride says: "It's lovely, I'm just so happy you'll be there with us."

Carolyn Hax: You can't see it, but I'm doing my little sanity dance. Thanks.

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Ugly or pretty one: This is going to sound awful, but I am often the pretty one. It definitely has its fall backs. Some women are really unfriendly toward me, men think I'm stupid, I get cat called to on the street constantly, and even my friends have problems with it sometimes. It's very awkward to have friends comment on the physical differences between you, or to be jealous of things I cannot control. A lot of my friends who feel this way have a much easier go of being respected for who they are, and I often envy that.

The grass is always greener, isn't it?

Carolyn Hax: Indeed. That's why I didn't advice U.F. to stop going out with her pretty friend--that would suggest that, hey, she's pretty, you can dehumanize her. Already too common. Thanks.

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Richmond, Va.: Hi,

What is the proper way to let your SO know what kind of engagement ring you'd like? I've told him on the sly that I prefer silver over gold, and even told him specifically that I'd like a sapphire stone set in white gold or silver, but my boyfriend, sweet and thoughtful as he is, can be forgetful sometimes. Should I send him an e-mail and put "just in case" in the subject line, or leave a catalog cutout near the sports and men's health magazines?

Carolyn Hax: No no no. You're just trying to get me all worked up. I-won't-bite (typed with fingers clenched).

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Nearing Mom-hood: I'm due with baby no. one soon. Everyone, from friends to relatives, wants to schedule dates to come visit around the due date. I'm hesitant to schedule anything, because I've never done this before and have no idea when this kid is actually going to arrive. What if I'm in the hospital when they show up? What if I'm just 2-days home and have hormones and no idea which end is up? Why, all of a sudden, does everyone want to be a house guest at this exact moment in my life and what can I say to get all of them to understand why I can't make definitive plans??

Carolyn Hax: Just say no, thank you for the thought, but how about when the excitement has died down a bit? The two most important things to know when you bring home a baby aren't diapering and feeding, but knowing how to say no, and knowing how to stick to your guns.

okay, the most important thing is feeding. But the "no" stuff comes in 2nd and 3rd.

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Couple friends again: I miss-spoke when I said vaguely. Actually before I could even tell him what happened, they guy that interceded had already told him. As to why my husband is still friends with him, they have been friends for 20 years, have been through a lot of personal stuff together, and have a lot of the same mututal friends. Deep down even I don't believe the guy is a bad guy (or I would have pressed charges), I do believe he is a very bad drunk (he actually remembers nothing about what he did as he was in a black out but he's been told.) My husband says he has really cut down on his drinking and is trying to better himself. My husband is a beliver in 2nd chances so is willing to support him in this - he asked itf he should stop being friends with him and I said he didn't need to on my account. I too have forgiven him but will never put myself in the same situation again - ie forgiven but not forgotten.

That enough background to get back to the actual question?

Carolyn Hax: Yes, I think so, thank you.

It's time for your husband to say that you understand he was drunk at the time and you have forgiven him, but nevertheless you don't feel comfortable socializing with him, and hope he understands. If your husband refuses, then you need to say it. Once, clearly, without rancor. Since it's out in the open, there's no need for this "I'm busy" game.

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Anonymous: Hi Carolyn-

I am the biggest spaceshot, so it takes me hours to do things that would take others only minutes. I usually have to stay at work until really late just to stay afloat. I constantly make minor mistakes on reports that I send to other people. My concentration is awful and I frequently find myself daydreaming during the day. I have been this way for as long as I can remember. As a result, my boyfriend and family are constantly accusing me of being a "workaholic" even though this ridiculous because I only am working all the time because I have no choice. Is there anything that can be done?

Carolyn Hax: Have you gotten screened for ADD yet?

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Re: Silent about job interview: My husband used to be very superstitious about job hunting - if ANYONE knew he was interviewing, it would jinx him. So his first couple of jobs before we got married were complete surprises. He's slowly gotten more comfortable about sharing information, but it's still not easy for him.

Just wanted to provide one possible explanation -- of course, if this is the case with the previous writer, he still is obliged to explain WHY he kept her out of such an important decision.

Carolyn Hax: Like, right on. Thanks.

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To Friends with a NICU Parent:: I am a social worker in a NICU and something that I have observed friends doing for NICU parents that seems to help parents cope is actually coming to the hospital to see the baby. This obviously depends on the specific visitors policy of the hospital, but if you are allowed to visit, ask mom and go for it. Just about every new parent, even when their kid has a zillion wires and tubes stuck in them, seems to feel supported when a close friend is there with them to admire the little one. And, be prepared to support your friend if things don't go well. I've, unfortunatley, seen babies doing well take very sudden turns for the worse -- just be there for your friend whether her child is ready to go home in two weeks or in two months.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you. I didn't suggest it b/c in my experience friends aren't allowed. Since different hospitals apparently have different policies, I agree it's important to offer. Thanks again. (It is a little shocking to see, though--all those wires and tubes. Which maybe is why it's so good to go if you can.)

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Anonymous: Today's column never mentioned moping or complaining. It seems like the submitter is the one moping, and that you see yourself in her, and therefore saw her perspective quickly and ran with it in a seriously bitchy way.

And to use your tired and lamely pithy catchphrase...just sayin.

Carolyn Hax:"I'm sick of his complaining and lack of enthusiasm." From today's column.

--Tired and Lame

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Wits Endville: I've tried three times to unload the dishwasher but my one-year-old doesn't want to unload the dishwasher. I can't bar him from the kitchen or his high pitched scream will bring either Child Protective Services or animal control. My house is a wreck, I'm stuck in two rooms and can't do a thing because I have to keep the kids from killing each other. How do you cope when you have no money for sitters and no hope for freedom until the kids go to school... in three to five years... (OK, now my son wants to type to you...) dtfgsejkutk kyt n

Carolyn Hax: Get a porta-crib/pack-and-play/whatever the generic term is, or a bouncy seat, or a saucer, and unload your dishwasher. Or gate him out of the kitchen. Whatever--let the little bleep scream. Seriously. Some chores you can put off, but sometimes things have to be done. Plus, if he knows all he has to do is scream to get what he wants, then he'll never stop screaming.

Finally: For those who don't have sitters, the best resource is other families who don't have sitters. In exchange for two hours of the extra hell of watching extra kids (for which you prepare by understanding that no chores will get done in those two hours, it's strictly for watching kids), you can buy two hours of someone else watching your kids some other day. A formal version of this is a mothers'-day-out program, a-k-a cooperative day care. Churches are a common host for these. Ask around.

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NICU Ideas: Other ideas for the NICU parents: Gas cards to gas stations near home or the hospital (it adds up if they are driving back and forth a lot); buy them non-perishable food items so they will have things to eat when they get home late and are too tired to cook (as well as disposable plates etc.); coins for the vending machines at the hospital; a small notebook so they can write down what they are being told by the doctors; clean their house or get a cleaning service to come in; and offer to be their point person to communicate news and updates to friends/family.

Also, if the mom is pumping, offer to support her in any way with that -- such as picking up extra supplies for her to have at home, etc.

Just some ideas I have heard from friends who have had preemies.

Carolyn Hax: Graet stuff, thanks.

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RE: Couple friends. (from Chicago): Hi Carolyn, It's a really hard thing to do, but I think the woman in this situation also might need to take a look at her own husband's treatment of alcohol. Passing out while your wife's assaulted by a friend doesn't sound entirely healthy.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I think the assailant's wife was the one who was passed out. That's how I read it at least.

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Tired and Lame: I will never understand why people participate in this discussion only to tell you how little they respect you and your opinion....

Carolyn Hax: Bothers me more that I've been credited with "Just sayin" as a signature phrase. It's said often here, but it's not really mine.

Just sayin.

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Food Disagreements: Would your answer have been different if the boyfriend from today's column had plain tastes instead of unhealthy tastes? I dated a guy who was fine with my cooking if I made something basic like grilled chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes (semi-healthy with chicken broth and milk and a little butter instead of oodles of butter and cream) but didn't want any part of anything more exotic. I was okay with what he liked, I just liked to cook so much more than the basics. Like your questioner, I love to cook and get lots of compliments on my cooking.

I saw a lot of us in the question because he was dismissive of my cooking (told me I was cooking 'above' his tastes. Which seemed like a backhanded compliment to me.) I guess that's just one of the reasons he's an ex-bf.

Carolyn Hax: My answer was really centered on the, "I'm sick of his complaining and lack of enthusiasm," and the fact that this was his reaction to someone who loved food and who loved to cook -for him-. It's one thing to have different tastes, and even unhealthy tastes. I thought I made it clear in my answer that he was entitled to eat whatever junk he wanted to. But what stood out was an unwillingness to play along and try something different--if only for the simple reason that trying it would make his partner happy.

I would have suggested the same for her, but presumably pizza and fries are not uncharted territory for her. I also don't think she should have to eat food that's bad for her just to make him happy--that's the only place the unhealthiness of his tastes affected the answer. Had his complaint-expressed preference been for, say, perfectly healthy but bland food, then I would have included a suggestion for meeting him (gustatorily) halfway--though the emphasis still would have been on the attitude.

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Another Blazing Saddles fan: Rarin' is yours, I believe.

Carolyn Hax: Guilty on that count. Though not lately I don't think.

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Re: Richmond: The proper way to let your SO know what kind of engagement ring you want is to include photos of it when you put together the wedding demands power point presentation. That's also where you include photos of acceptable mother of the bride dresses.

Carolyn Hax: Finally, someone who's thinking clearly.

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Boston, Mass.: Hi, Carolyn:

I have a money-related question that I can't really raise with my parents, the typical sources of advice in my life. My 25 y/o (younger) brother lives in a third world country doing development work (full time), and is, as you may imagine, woefully underpaid. I happen to have a well-paying job, and my brother periodically asks for "loans." (Our parents are not particularly well off.) I have never had a problem loaning him money in the past, but have aso never been repaid.

The money itself isn't the issue, but I do find myself coming to resent feeling like a bank; when he gets in touch with me, it's usually in connection with a request for cash. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: Talk to him about it. Tell him you're starting to resent your role as the bank, (maybe?) not because he isn't paying you back, since that probably will have to wait till he's paid better, but because these money requests are now the only time you hear from him. Does that capture it?

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Washington, D.C.: How do you suggest my husband and I decide what last name our (potential) children should have? I did not change my name when I married -- I felt pretty strongly about that and he didn't care. I'm not sure about just automatically giving the children his name. I don't like hyphenating names. We considered putting our names together to form a new last name, but they don't really work together. Neither of us wants to take an entirely new name (for ourselves) because we each have an identity with our birth names. I'm not asking you to pick the name, but rather how would you go about deciding. In the end, the important thing is our relationship, not any names, but the kids will need to have a last name.

Carolyn Hax: Two things I would throw in there: Which name do you like better, objectively, and which will be easier? If you're not one for deferring to tradition, then make a conscious choice to defer to common sense. Logic being gender-neutral and all.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,

I've seen a woman a few times over the last several weeks. I thought that a spark might develp because we seem to have a lot in common, but it never did. I have mentioned being friends instead of pursuing a relationship, but she continually asks me why. Other than me not feeling anything special for, her, I really don't have a good reason. How can I explain this to her without hurting her feelings?

Than you.

Carolyn Hax: Maybe you don't feel anything special for her because she isn't very bright? Seems like the "why" is either self-explanatory, or there's an alternate explanation that you would have shared by now, such as "I just got out of a relationship" or something.

If you really do like her and want to pursue it, then I guess just say you're enjoying things the way they are, without added complications.

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Hugging: Carolyn,

I am a 20-something female and I don't know the etiquette on hugging! When I see friends I haven't seen in a long time, I generally hug them. I figured this was normal but now I am figuring it isn't. What do the 'nuts say? Do you hug your friends when you get together for the first time in a while? But I always initiate it, and feel like a weirdy.

Carolyn Hax: It is for some people; some people go for the kiss on the cheek, some kiss both cheeks. Really the only answer, I think, is not to doubt yourself. Especially not when you're two inches from someone, where the flinch is just deadly.

If it helps, I think hugging is really familiar. It might throw someone who doesn't think s/he's all that close a friend to you. but it's also so genuine that I won't counsel you out of it.

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Book of Columns: As I was sorting through some papers the other day, which included some of your past columns (what I do instead of looking at the MOG dresses in past wedding photos), I wondered what happened to the book you were putting together - did I miss it somehow?

Carolyn Hax: No, it's waiting and waiting for me to have time to put it together. There just hasn't been any. Thanks for asking, though.

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Charlotte, N.C.: RE: Wedding Dress

My brother overheard the bride of his friend complain about how my brother was going to ruin her pictures (he's very tall). That one thoughtless comment not only ruined any chance of a friendship between the bride and my brother but irreparably damaged my brother's friendship with the groom (he never mentioned it to him but made a point of declining any invitations to their home). Bullying your m-i-l into a dress is a poor way to start a lifelong relationship with her. I'm just saying...

Carolyn Hax: It's a good cautionary tale against Bridezillism, but I do wish your brother had found it in him to give her another chance--if only enough for her to prove she could be tolerated while he continued his friendship.

And, by the way, it's "just sayin," without the G, or else you'll ruin the whole transcript.

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Boston, Mass.: Here's an idea from my great-grandmother! 100 years ago, if she needed some time, she'd put my grandmother in the crib, with all of her toys. Then she'd do as many chores as she could while grandma was throwing everything out.

Carolyn Hax: Great idea, except we'd need to make a 2007 adjustment from "all of her toys" to "20 of her toys" lest we flatten the baby.

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Boston, Mass.: Speaking of variables invading sleep, what about ones that we are supposed to control? I'm about to move (w/husband and two kids) across country and I'm rigid with stress. You ex-repatriated yourself with a bigger family than mine, can you help me out with some tips for handling the gazillion variables of buying, selling, childcare, and somehow trying to get a little work done when I'm supposed to be at work? If the baby isn't getting me up at night I'm getting myself up, I'm snappish and whiny with my innocent husband, and I'm playing too much solitaire on my cell phone.

Carolyn Hax: Prioritize, delegate, and when you're about to play solitaire, make a list instead. if you already have a million lists, then consolidate lists. If you're constantly doing a little bit of what has to be done, most urgent things first, then you'll get there. And I really really mean it about delegating--don't be afraid to ask for help. (Just be willing to give somethign in return, be it money or gifts or furute help in kind.) Good luck.

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Richmond, Va.: I'm really not sure why everyone feels the need to be so nasty over a simple question. If I'm the one who has to wear the ring, then it should be something that is wearable. I'm not going to play the part of the mousy miss and cower away from getting what I want because it might be rude. So, I will send an e-mail and slip the catalog cutout next to the sports pictures.

Carolyn Hax: Still---not---biting---

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If you want a sapphire stone set in white gold or silver: then buy yourself one.

Carolyn Hax: Sounds like a plan.

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Carolyn Hax: Okay, I've just bailed on two "final" questions. Hang on, I'll get it right one of these times.

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Tampa, Fla.: Online only, please. My boyfriend of nine months and I are in our 30s and will be visiting my parents this weekend, when he'll be meeting them for the first time. They have disliked every boyfriend (all 2 of them) they have met, including my ex husband of 9 years. They dislike my ex husband so much they think I should cut off all contact with him because they're afraid he'll "pull a Scott Peterson." My ex would never hurt a fly, and never laid a hand on me. It was just a paranoid fear of theirs.

So I have conveyed all this info to my boyfriend and he thinks they're harmless. My parents have horrified my exes with inappropriate questions, but he thinks he can handle them. In situations where they say inappropriate things or ask inappropriate questions, should I step in or let him handle the questions? If it matters, they are from a country/culture where parents are involved in the daily lives of their adult children and they feel they have a right to all details of my, and therefore his life.

Carolyn Hax: Step in only when your boyfriend's face says it's time to step in. Otherwise, you've done your part, you've filled him in--now it's time for you to trust all parties to handle whatever happens.

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Carolyn Hax: You included.

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Carolyn Hax: That's it. Thanks everybody, hope to see you next Friday.

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Engaging Rings: Miss Manners had a GREAT piece on the whole engagement ring saga this past Wednesday. Maybe link to that?

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, I just read it. I agree that it would be nice if the need for the Big Presentation Moment passed into history.

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NICU Again: Major addition to the great advice so far. If the baby in the NICU has older siblings this is a very, very tough time for them.

In our case, the hospital didn't allow visitors under 10 years old in the NICU, so our kids couldn't even see their sister until she came home. Plus, when you add Mom and Dad being away from home for longer than normal hours and paying what seems like a huge amount of attention to the new addition, it can really help if friends and family can arrange activities for the siblings.

Carolyn Hax: Big point, big help, thanks.

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Carolyn Hax: Oh no, I forgot to post the comments from people re staying in or leaving loveless marriages. Will get to next week--please remind me if I don't, thanks.

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