Tell Me About It

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 7, 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.


Falls Church, Va.: I have a question that makes me feel ridiculously high school-ish.

I recently met a woman I might be interested, and she might be interested in me. Why not just ask to see her? Because I'm supposed to see her in a few weeks (i.e., not as soon as I'd like) for a small group activity, and I'd rather not make it awkward. This is a case where "our friendship" actually is more important than romance -- but I don't want to send the message that I'm not interested in the interim.


Carolyn Hax: This isn't about "our friendship," it's about "your fear of awkwardness." If you ask and she says no, go into the activity a few weeks from now like a person who can shake off a rejection as a fact of life, since, conveniently, that's all it is.


Carolyn Hax: Or, of course, you just wait the few weeks, if you know yourself well enough to know the whole thing will freak you out.


Washington, D.C.: Carolyn, I'm recently married and having trouble with my wife's siblings. My wife has a strong relationship with her two sisters and wants us to spend a lot of time with them and their families. Problem is I don't feel as comfortable with them as she does. It's caused some friction for example when I don't show up at one of their family events - my absence is noted. Recently I've noticed some tension with one of the sisters and urged my wife to help me address it. We're supposed to sit down soon. Any advice on how to approach this? My instinct is to be firm on how I'd like to be treated. Would it make sense to tell them that if they're not decent to me, then don't expect me to be around much? I'd love to say that I married my wife and not them, but I think that would be like detonating a bomb. Thanks

Carolyn Hax: What does your wife say about the way her sisters treat you? Maybe more important, what has she done?


Portland, Ore.: This may seem like an odd question but I'm concerned about stepping on some toes. A friend of my husband's is getting married soon. They used to serve as officers together in the Army about ten years ago and haven't really been in touch since besides one gathering a couple years ago when we happened to be in her town. Other than that there have been the occasional one or two-line emails. We're not invited to the wedding and I wouldn't expect us to be. Anyway, my husband insists on sending her a card with a check. I fear that this would put the bride in an uncomfortable position. I think it's a wonderful idea to send a card wishing her and her new husband 'congratulations' but to include a check? If I was in the same situation, I would feel guilty that I hadn't invited these people to the wedding.

Any advice?

Carolyn Hax: Your husband insists, so why fight it? Or look at it this way--why create friction with your spouse for the sole purpose of preventing a kind gesture? I know you're trying to be kind, too, but I can't see any reason to dig in. The important thing is that he doesn't mean it as a guilt trip.


New York: I have been offered the perfect job in the perfect small town I really want to move back to (1,000 miles away). The problem is, six months ago I met someone I adore who can't move away from this un-perfect (for me) big city. How do I figure out what to do? Listing the pros and cons of each choice doesn't seem to be working.

Carolyn Hax: Maybe a different list. Which do you think you're more likely to regret giving up? Which decision would be easier to undo if you did regret it? Which ache has been stronger for you historically, loneliness or homesickness?

If anyone else has suggestions, let em fly.


Richmond, Va.: my husband could have written the letter about spending time with wife's siblings (except for the conflict with sister part). He 'll complain about too many family activies, too. My take: you knew my main support structure was my sisters and the main loves of my life are my nephews and neice when you met me. This is a package deal. It would be sweet if you find a romantic way to say "honey lets have a romatic night out (alone)." But don't begrudge me cuz family is important to me. If you make an argument out of this, someone will lose.

Carolyn Hax: It would also be sweet if people gave their spouses an out for some of the family gatherings. Don't know if this is the case with you, but in the other poster's situation for sure, he might be more inclined to make an effort during visits if he weren't asked to visit every single time his wife wanted to see her sisters, and if he weren't guilt-tripped for his absence. Just as you are a package deal, so is he--with his vision of family. Argument prevention goes both ways.


Trouble with sibs: I think you need to ask yourself whether this is new behavior on your wife's part before you have your sit down. If she always spent a lot of time with her sisters before you got married, you can't have given her the impression that was OK when you were dating and now it's not. Never ceases to amaze me how people's problems suddenly "show up" after the wedding.

I think so many people go into marriage thinking what they dislike about their S.O. is going to change after the wedding. People, when you decide to marry, the person you are dating IS the person you will be married to, not some better version of them.

Carolyn Hax: Another other side. Thanks.


Unperfect big city: What does the someone you adore say?

Carolyn Hax: Yeah?


Trenton, N.J.: Carolyn,

Without snooping, how do you know if a boyfriend is cheating? My boyfriend of three years lives about an 1 1/2 hours away from me while he finishes his degree. On two or three occasions over the past three years, friends or acquaintances say they've seen him out on other dates or flirting innappropriately with other girls. My boyfriend denies each of these accounts, and chalks it up to misunderstandings, or says he was out with platonic friends. Is he a liar, or am I just paranoid?

Carolyn Hax: What do your other informants say? Not the people, I mean your eyes, your ears, your gut, your awareness of his integrity in other situations--there's context here. What is it saying?


Towson, Md.: Is there a specific reason there's a Hydroderm ad next to your chat submission box? IS it better than Botox?

Carolyn Hax: I don't age. Exhibit A, my mug at the top of the transcript.


For New York: You don't want to live in New York and have been wanting to move back home. Let's say this six-month relationship leads to marriage. Then what? One of you spends the rest of you life living somewhere that isn't a good fit. A lifetime of too tight shoes. Ugh.

I don't really see how two people who want something so different and so central as big city vs. small town could ever be happy together. I'm sure you just haven't yet discovered the myriad of other issues where you two just don't match up.

Carolyn Hax: I'm not so sure it's as absolute as that, but you do bring up an excellent point that I've seen played out so many times in real life--that fusing lives with someone you met when you were out of the country/out of your element means either one of you pines, or both of you shuttle back and forth between worlds. It's hard, and worth a very honest conversation.


Baltimore, MD: Regarding today's column. I'm concerned with the description of the mother's boyfriend, as you stated "Dominant guy" "resistant." These are red flags to me, her childred should be on their guard for their mother's protection, I'm thinking he takes over her social life, then her personal life, then her bank account...

Carolyn Hax: I know. I was alarmed, too, but also concerned about jumping to conclusions, given how little I had to go on. I tried to leave out enough breadcrumbs (e.g., his failure to respect boundaries) so that, if there are other breadcrumbs already there, it will produce a clear path to the possibility he's a dangerous guy. Thanks for bringing it to light.


"Main loves of your life?": The main loves of your life are your sisters and nieces and nephews? Wow, that doesn't sound like it leaves a lot of room for your husband.

I do think relationships with family need to adjust after the wedding. If "main loves" means you are consistently putting family ahead of your spouse (as in, the family you have chosen), then your spouse has every right to be upset.

Marriage means making room for everyone, not picking a side (family vs. spouse) and expecting everyone else to fall into line.

Carolyn Hax: Rarin.


Siblings...: I had a different take on the post. The husband said that he doesn't feel as comfortable with his wife's siblings/family as she does. The only evidence of any so called "treatment" is that his absence is noted and that there is some tension with one of the sibs. That hardly seems like mistreatment to me. Speaking from the perspective of someone who doesn't enjoy spending as much time with my husband's family as he does, and who fairly regularly opts out of functions and hears about it after, that is a result of your choice. People are going to miss you, and not understand why you don't want to spend time with them. Sometimes it helps smooth things over a bit by suggesting that it's scheduling (rather than dislike). You are going to know and be with these people for the rest of your life. Might as well make the best of it while respecting your own boundaries.

Carolyn Hax: I agree with the last sentence, but disagree pretty strongly with what precedes it. "Not understand why you don't want to spend time with them"? Why? I can think of a dozen reasons a spouse might not want to hang with the in-laws, and most have nothing to do with old in-law jokes. Letting spouse have time alone with his/her fam, grabbing some rare alone time at home, using the time to enjoy hobbies the other spouse doesn't enjoy. Maybe a spouse is socially awkward and likes to pick a few times to rally and pass on the rest.

Now, if the gatherings are once a year and the spouse always no-shows, then the fam has a point. But if these are people who live nearby and the time spent is voluminous, as implied in the two postings that started this, then I think putting pressure on an absentee in-law is skating awfully close to the line of controlling, meddlesome BS.

Either way, for imbalances to work, the spouses need to be in some agreement about who goes to see Famzilla and when, and then the one who shows up needs to stick up for the absentee.

Not to turn you against your husband's family or anything.


Shared e-mail accounts: Today's column highlighted this, but it is something I'm immensely curious about.

I don't share an e-mail account with my spouse - he and I each have one. Neither of us even know the passwords for the other.

One of my friends was appalled by this. And I would be completely freaked out if I e-mailed an old friend and her SPOUSE replied.

Are there a lot of couples that share an e-mail account?

Carolyn Hax: Anecdotally, I've seen a pretty big range--for example, I get a lot of e-mail from addresses, but signed by Mary Name, which would suggest a married couple with one e-mail address. That, frankly, drives me nuts. It treats an e-mail like a visit to the couple, when I want it to be a phone call to the individual.

In other words, I'm appalled by your appalled friend. It's not necessarily my privacy that a password protects, it's the privacy of the people who think they're writing only to me. Ya?


Family: Also, how are you with his family? Do you expect him to spend all holidays etc. with yours to the exclusion of his? Do you look down on his family because they're not as close as yours?

Carolyn Hax: Another good one, thanks.

Are the dualing threads confusing anyone?


The main loves of your life are your sisters and nieces and nephews?: i never said that. Read the post again. I said WEHN i MET MY HUSBAND, not NOW. So all your snarky criticisn following is unwarrented and highly incorrect. You are reading some of your own problems into the situation apparently. Because I don't choose my family over my husband, we see them once every 2 or 3 weeks.

to quote C's advice from an earlier chat:


Carolyn Hax: Deep, cleansing breaths.

The people who flagged that comment were -partially- wrong in letter--you wrote, direct quote, "and the main loves of my life are my nephews and neice"--but I think they were on to something in spirit.

Seeing in-laws once every two or three weeks is a lot for some people. If, for example, they work long hours, then spending time "every two or three weeks" with the in-laws can translate into seeing them for at least part of the day on 1/4 of their days off. To quote me from an earlier chat, wow.

Not to say there's anything wrong with this, if you two agree on it. It is wrong, though, if you and spouse don't agree and you don't at least try to see it his way, try to see the way the math works out in practical terms, and how he may have known this in theory but missed the truth of it until the honeymoon was over and he was spending every other NFL afternoon with your mom.

And, like I said initially, I also think it's asking too much if you don't freely grant him a few pardons, without guilt strings attached.


Richmond, Va.: No, but now I'm thinking about dueling banjos.

Carolyn Hax: Who isn't?


Separate Emails: My husband and I have separate emails and I would not expect to have a joint one, even after 25 years together. However, since he long ago forgot his password and can't be bothered to check his email even if we reset it, friends or family who want to send him an email know to send it to me and I'll relay it him.

Carolyn Hax: Speaking of the full range. funny.


Awkward City: So, one of my sortof-friends (I know him from a shared freshman year of college) got married a while ago. He extended an invitation to the wedding to his friends through his blog. I didn't think I was expected at the wedding since I'm barely part of the group, but it later got back to me that I was missed. Now I'm worried that someone feels snubbed. What to do?

Carolyn Hax: Roll eyes, carry on. That;s no way to run a guest list.


Re: Shared e-mail accounts/NYC: Not to hijack the chat, but I think there's something to be said for couples at least knowing each others' passwords. My friend passed away last August and her fiance was able to contact her many friends through her account when she suddenly became ill. It was the first time he had ever done so and he made it clear that he was the one sending the e-mail. After she died, he was able to hold on to the account until her family decided what to do with this electronic record of her life up to that point. There are ways to use sensitive information like a password without it getting out of hand- boundaries, once again.

Carolyn Hax: Excellent point, thanks. I sidestepped the whole password thing because I hadn't given it a whole lot of thought, honestly, but this makes a lot of sense to me.

As does not marrying someone whom you couldn't trust to know your password, but that's gilding the ol advice lily.


Re Siblings: I have seen this dynamic play out with my parents -- my mother expects my father to attend every family event on her side of the family, and he does, dutifully. My mother has a brother-in-law who does not -- he picks and chooses -- and boy does the BIL get talked about behind his back by my mother and her other sisters (it's like they are a witches coven). My father has stated in private that he wishes he'd done things differently early on, and set more boundaries, rather than going along, because he'd catch too much heat if he decided now to change. So I say to the husband -- stick to your guns.

Carolyn Hax: I guess a, "Mom, back off the guy," wouldn't go over so well? He should catch the heat now anyway and get his life back (but lock up the guns, pent-up anger and all).

Isn't "should" a fine word?


Good reason not to hang out with in-laws: Mine (who live nearby and all get together often) spend the entire time talking about next-door-neighbors from 20 years ago, or someone's great-aunt-twice-removed who I'll never ever meet. Plus, the siblings (including my husband) all revert to their childhood roles (the dour older brother, the goofy middle brother, the spoiled princess youngest sister) and speak in movie references, in jokes, and quotes from funny things that happened in middle school. That leaves me to hang out with the other "married-ins" who aren't privy to the fast-and-furious family code, and I have even LESS in common with them.

My husband has a good family, and they give me little trouble, but still, still: why wouldn't I find something else to do with my Sunday afternoon, is the question.

Carolyn Hax: Hee hee.


Washington, D.C.: Carolyn,

I've been seeing a man for a couple of years now, and we have one seemingly unresolvable issue. He doesn't like me to do things without him. That's time spent seeing friends and family, studying and having an evening to myself occasionally.

It goes like this: he says "in a relationship, it's normal to reach a point where you spend more time together," and I say "it's also normal to reach a point where it's ok to spend time apart."

He says it makes him feel like he's not a priority and I don't care about him when I spend time alone or away from him. FWIW, I was seeing him about 5 days a week. Recently I've cut that down dramatically, to 1 or 2 days, because I'm just exhausted from reassuring him I do care and he is a priority. I had asked for a break from the relationship, but he says it's impossible for him to not see me at all.

I'm not terribly skilled at relationships, so I'd like to know how much together time is really normal in a relationship? Am I really being so insensitive in my time allotment?

Carolyn Hax: No, I think your past struggles at relationships have made you unwilling to trust your own judgment and stand up for what you think is right. As it happens, your judgment is dead on--this is a very controlling and insecure man you describe. If he won't respect your need for your own time, then he doesn't respect you; he's saying plainly that his needs come first. Never good. Plus, his statement that it's "impossible for him not to see [you] at all"--is that a threat? What's he going to do about it when you do break up with him? Overrule your free will, in favor of his own?

I hope you;re beginning to see how inappropriate his behavior has been. As I said, you are on to this guy, your exhaustion and your decision to distance yourself demonstrate that--please, please trust it. Also, please get help if any goosebump alarms go off--1-800-799-SAFE counselors can help you sort out which voice is saying what, when your gut and your mind don't agree.


Fear of death: I distinctly remember when I became aware, and by extension terrified, of death. I was five or six years old, in my parents' basement, reading a picture book on a Native American grandfather teaching a little boy about the cycle of life and death. Looking back, I realize it wasn't a scary book. Nonetheless, since then (I'm in my early 20s)I've been obsessed. I get mini-panic attacks when I think about eternal oblivion. I wasn't raised in any religious faith, and I find it difficult to believe in any idea of an afterlife (though I want to, badly). I've told myself that there's nothing I can do to control life and death, so I might as well not worry about it, but it's hard to make yourself stop thinking about something right when you're doing just that. These feelings and thoughts have gotten more intense lately. I'm finding it difficult to enjoy life because I keep getting distracted by thoughts that this will all end. For example, when I'm cuddling with my boyfriend I'm a little bit sad because I know that both he and I will die. He says that maybe I should go talk to someone. Do therapists deal with this sort of stuff? In general I'm a healthy and happy person. I have a good job, great family and friends, loving boyfriend, and lately I've been eating healthier and exercising. What's wrong with me?

Carolyn Hax: Therapists do deal with this stuff. Also, some ... what's the term ... brain-wiring quirks can lead you to dwell on unpleasant thoughts. It's definitely worth exploring with someone qualified to diagnose mental and emotional conditions, not to mention able to think of the correct term. And if it's just a case for talk therapy, then getting that from a reputable provider might be enough to help you trace the origins and eventually get some of the weight off your shoulders.


Not spending time with in-laws:: What if they're not your in-laws but your siblings? My sis lives across the country with her husband, and his whole family lives close to them. Our parents and I are on this coast. The last time we all went out to visit my sis for a week, her husband's parents invited us for dinner, and we all went. They invited us again, and we declined (we were only there a week and had other obligations and activites). When they found out that my parents went out for dinner twice with old friends of theirs (friends of over 20 years!), my sis's husband was insulted that my parents did not dine with his parents twice, but were available to dine with another couple twice in a week. My parents barely know his parents, why wouldn't they choose old friends over almost-strangers? And yes, my sister does get together with his family at least twice a month. but they're HER in-laws, not our parents' or mine! Or am I wrong and were my parents rude to his parents?

Carolyn Hax: Your parents weren't rude, your sister's husband and his family were being silly. Too bad your sister didn't contain the quasi-outrage spill (or couldn't, without "catching heat"). But aside from airing it here, I'd let the whole thing go. Sounds like your sister has enough to deal with.


Washington, D.C. -- sibs: My family likes my husband better than me. He likes them more than his own. I don't like anyone.

Carolyn Hax: Well, I hope he lets you skip seeing your family sometimes when he goes to see them.


To Washington, D.C.: Carolyn, you made several great and important points about the controlling boyfriend. I just wanted to add that there's no "normal" amount of time to spend in a relationship, it's what feels right to the two people in the couple. If there's a disconnect between those two people on the importance of space and having "me time," it's difficult to make a relationship work, even if there's no evil or controlling intent on one person's part. It's kind of the same as trying to mesh a person who does not spend very much time with their family with someone who thinks that visiting family once every 2-3 weeks is not very often. In some cases, the situation is workable, but it takes two people who are willing to compromise, and this guy doesn't sound like he even tries to respect her point of view.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for the great point.


Different Richmond, Va.: I am curious about a point made in today's column that was not addressed. The writer said that the other siblings were not happy with their widowed mother dating. Why is that? I have certain siblings that believe my mother (widowed almost five years) has to get our blessing before being "allowed" to date. That word has been used by my sister. My mother has not dated anyone yet and it makes me sad that she may be compromising some chance of happiness to keep peace with children who think there is no replacement for dad. Can someone explain this? My sister says that it's our duty. Sigh.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I did address it, in a parenthetical rap to the sisters' knuckles. I think grown kids have no say in a widowed parent's decision to date.

Minor children do in the sense that it's their home that's affected, so their opinion--expressed but more so demonstrated, through their thriving (or not) in the new person's presence--does count for a lot.

Has your sister elaborated on what she sees as her "duty"? is it to keep others in line with her vision of the perfect world? I think you're right, that the reason is just not wanting to see anyone else in dad's "place." Amazing the number of disguises selfishness uses when it travels.


For the parents on the other coast: What's it like having a scoreboard actually in your house?

Carolyn Hax: Great, if your house also has a hot dog cart, a beer cart, a field, bleachers and some unusually gifted athletes in it.


Fear of Death?: The poster's fear of death could certainly be a therapist job, but I'd like to throw this into the mix: as a society we're not tought how to handle death. People used to talk about death and death used to be all around us. Thank goodness for modern medicine ... because that means generally speaking children aren't exposed to death. But when you combine this lack of exposure to death with the fact no-one talks about death-and-what-it-means - what are we left with as we seek to prepare ourselves and our children for the fact of death in our lives? It seems to me that for a lot of our society the sole way we're learn as children how to handle death is through pets. This is not adequeate preparation.

Carolyn Hax: Interesting point, thanks. Certainly there can be overexposure, too, like when kids catch a bit of the news, which contains death in quantities way out of proportion to real life, at least for most people. But still, your argument applies because those glimpses need context, explanation. And, just an all-about-me rant, I cringe when I hear death euphemisms. "Passed on." Er, what? To whom?


Depression/Finances: Hi Carolyn,

I struggle with depression. My doctor prescribed something for me, and it really helps. Unfortunately, I can't always afford to refill my prescription. I'm looking for better paying work, (or even just a second job), but the fact remains: every time I am feeling good, clear headed, and like I have a handle on things, my finances bind me back to my depression.

I don't know what to do.

Carolyn Hax: Have you told this to your doctor? S/he might be able to tide you over with samples, or suggest places to seek assistance.


Falls Church Feeling "High School-ish": Well, are you going to ask her??

Carolyn Hax: Yeah. Well?


Rockville: I'm submitting this because I feel like whining and I don't have anyone to whine to because I "have to be strong for the kids."

- My dad died in July 2002.

- My husband died in August 2004.

- My sister was diagnosed with a malignant stomach tumor in December 2006 -- she's okay for now, but the spectre is ever there.

- My brother died of a heart attack in January 2007.

- My mother was just diagnosed with advance ovarian cancer and given 12-18 months at the most.

I'm moving across the country with my 2 kids (ages 5 and 9) to be with my mom and help my sister care for her. I'm surrounded by boxes and books and memories of my late husband. I'm weeping and I want someone to hold me and there isn't anyone.

Please ... will you hug me and tell me how to do this?

Carolyn Hax: I'm so sorry. Is there anyone you can call, even an out-of-towner, even someone you've fallen out of touch with, to come and help you move? A childhood friend, maybe, or school friend, someone who would just get it.

If not, I'm not sure anyone has improved on this way of getting it done: do a little, cry, do a little more.

There is one thing to consider, and that is, your kids can be strong for you, especially since they're so small. They can give you a whole little world to inhabit when the bigger one gets to be too much. Don't be afraid to cry in front of them, too. You may not have the luxury of being able to fall apart and sleep for a month, but you can still be human.


"Controlling boyfriend": It's also possible he's freaking out a bit about her cutting back from five times a week to two after dating for two years; kind of a bait-n-switch, and he might logically fear it means another man, etc.

I think you're a little quick on the trigger with the abuse hotline, but that's just me...

Carolyn Hax: Which is more harmful, being too quick, or too slow? If I was to quick, then she calls and finds out she has nothing to worry about.

As it happens, in this case, she has a lot to worry about. Even if his fear is justifiable, his way of handling it isn't. The red flags he's waving are well documented.


Fear of Death: A few years ago, I could have written in with the same concern -- I spent a lot of time in what can only be called dread of oblivion. It wasn't just dying that bothered me, but what death meant about life. I don't see this as something that requires therapy. I mean, perhaps it does. But perhaps it requires some reading of philosophy books, talking with friends, talking with parents, exploring religious beliefs. I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that there is something "miswired" about someone who happens to be awake to metaphysical questions. I found my way through that anxiety and fear through other means, and I think I have a more developed sense of what my life means for it.

Carolyn Hax: Which is excellent, and a map for everyone, really, to explore their beliefs and feelings. What I was responding to was that she dwelled on these disturbing thoughts, for most of her life apparently, to the point where it was affecting her ability to be happy--and to the point where someone close to her was suggesting she get help. I try to go on the cues at hand, not what I might think in general.


Depression not able to afford: Sometimes drug companies will give you a break or send you certain volumes of drugs free if you give them evidence of your inability to pay. That's what my uncle did for one of his medications.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.


Hoboken, NJ: For depression/finances: It is very likely that the company that makes your medicine has a program that can get you the medicine you need for free or for a nominal fee if you qualify. Check with your doctor or with the drug company directly, or go to It will link you to the programs of several different pharmaceutical company programs which are designed to help people who have trouble affording their meds. DISCLAIMER: I work for a pharma company.

Carolyn Hax: More, thanks.


To Depression/Finances:"suggest places to seek assistance"

NAMI, I forget what it stands for but they are a national association for mental something. My daughter is bi-polar and when she was in college and needed medication that she could not afford I had her contact the local chapter and they guided her to find a way to get her medication within her budget. Some pahrmeceutical companies have a program where they provide medicine free or at a reduced rate and NAMI knows sources for such medicine.

Carolyn Hax: You guys are great. National Alliance on Mental Illness.


Washington, D.C.: Re Fear of Death. I know where the poster is coming from. I was perhaps 18 when the cold, hard realization of my own personal mortality hit me. It was often debilitating and I struggled with it for years. I have no actual concrete advice about dealing with it because, in the absence of faith in an afterlife (which if you don't have, you -- well, just don't have it), the utter black end of one's own existence is pretty well an inescapable truth. All I can note is that, because I still enjoyed getting up each day and seeing what life had to offer (that never changed), I just got better at not thinking about (aka denying) the pointlessness of it all. Thirty-five years later I remain quite capable of descending into that black hole of despair but find generally that my limited time here is better spent not thinking about it. It has become easier.

A therapist is not a bad idea though. Just be prepared to shop around a bit. A therapist who treats this fear as a defect or deficiency to be "cured" rather than a fundamental insight to be accommodated, somehow, will seem to be missing the point utterly and altogether, and won't be any help at all.

Good luck to the poster.

Carolyn Hax: Can we tie these together? "Pointlessness of it all," hot-dog-and-beer carts.

Happy Friday!


Fluffy Neighbor Question:

We got written up by our homeowner's association for our grass being too long in our back yard. (This isn't after a pattern of bad behavior, but after letting it go for one week longer than the front yard, one time). Our home fits snuggly between other homes, so our back yard is invisible from the street, and precisely three houses can even see our back yard.

I have narrowed it down, and am confident that the next door neighbor called the HOA to have them send us a nasty gram. (The neighbor on the other side was horrified that the HOA would be so nozy as to bother with someone's back yard!) This gets my goat because the neighbor is so friendly with me, normally, so this action seems 2 faced.

I tend to have difficulties with rage and obsession, unless I can have an open and honest communication.

I am unsure how to approach this, because the communication was anonymous so:

(a) I could be wrong

(b) If I am right, he can claim I am wrong

all of which would make the situation a little more awkward.

Perhaps I need to find a tactful way to ask him about the nasty gram, or perhaps I need to let it go, and I just need advice with the letting go.

What do you think?

Carolyn Hax: Maybe somebody visited your neighbor's house. That possibility would broaden the pool of potential nasty-grammers to your entire neighborhood, which I hope will be enough to break up your rage clump into small enough pieces to let go.


Carolyn Hax: Okay okay I'm leaving. Bye, thank you for stopping by, and type to you next Friday.


To Rockville, MD: Please ask Rockville if she would be comfortable accepting assistance from strangers. If so, my husband and I would be happy to come out this weekend and help her.

Carolyn Hax: I think you probably just helped already. Thank you.


Help accessing RX:

Combines assistance info from pharma companies, state programs and charitable organizations. you can search by drug or by disease.

i work for a nonprofit health advocacy organization and it's an indispensable resource.

Carolyn Hax: Can';t vet it, but here it is. Thank you!


Washington, D.C.: For the poster who can't afford to refill her prescriptions:

The Partnership for Prescription Assistance brings together America's pharmaceutical companies, doctors, other health care providers, patient advocacy organizations and community groups to help qualifying patients who lack prescription coverage get the medicines they need through the public or private program that's right for them. Many will get them free or nearly free. Its mission is to increase awareness of patient assistance programs and boost enrollment of those who are eligible. Through this site, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance offers a single point of access to more than 475 public and private patient assistance programs, including more than 180 programs offered by pharmaceutical companies. To access the Partnership for Prescription Assistance by phone, you can call toll-free, 1-888-4PPA-NOW (1-888-477-2669).

Carolyn Hax: Another one, also with the I-can't-vet-it disclaimer. Thank you.


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