washingtonpost.com
Tell Me About It

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 28, 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.

A transcript follows.

Other mail can be directed to Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

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Carolyn Hax: Hey guys. I got word about some problems with the ALS Association's Web site for the upcoming walks. If anyone has any trouble registering or donating, please shoot an e-mail to tellme@washpost.com. I think it's okay now, I just want to make sure you don't have to work extra hard to do something nice.

In the meantime, I've changed the URL to the team page to make it easier for everyone: http://fightals.alsinfo.org/goto/hax. Well, a little easier. Click now just to see a great picture of my mom! I've also made the page friendlier, with less institutional language and more outright begging. (Not really, but I did try to explain the cause in my words.)

Finally, thank you for all the insane suggestions for a new team name. I've decided to keep Hax in there so that it's easy to find ... but what do you think, is Hax Pack an improvement? That was one of the few suggestions that didn't involve bacon, shoes or peanuts. Time for another Holiday Extravaganza, so we can get some new in-jokes.

Oh wait, one more thing -- Nick and I are working on some Zuzu T-shirts as incentives. (In fact, we'd be Zuzu's ped-ALS if anyone would have any idea who we were and what that meant.)

>Okay, all done, now it can be all about you.

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Carolyn Hax: Ha. I bet you believed me. Now, it's about Nick:

"Hello, friends, peanuts and Haxian loyalists. Nick Galifianakis here. I thought I'd crash this party to tell (beg) you to chime in this Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 1 pm for a LIVE NUDE chat! I'll be talking about all things columns and cartoons and how I'm tired of carrying Carolyn all these years. Hope to see you then. Nick"

Yeah yeah. You can put me down now. And now a little about the column: Nick is doing a chat to celebrate the fact that the column will be running seven days a week. Starting Monday, columns adapted from these transcripts will be running on what used to be my off days--Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Nick's art for those four special columns will have a different tone, too, as you'll see.

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Internal confusion: In the abstract, I used to think I believed that, absent abuse, marriage covenants were huge and that both sides of a couple needed to work harder to get through any problems. But, in my best friend's case, I feel myself saying, "Run away, run away - you deserve so much more happiness than you're getting from him!" She's filed for divorce and I really think it's the best thing for her (although, not for him - she really was the best thing that ever happened to him and he's very upset about the whole thing). I'm having real trouble reconciling my views. On the one hand, I still do believe in the sanctity and seriousness of marriage. On the other, I can't help but cheer for my friend and her decision (although I think my cheering would be less likely if there were kids in the picture). Am I just a hypocrite?

Carolyn Hax: No, I think you're just being forced to revisit a conviction you formed before you had all the facts. Welcome to the club.

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Carolyn:

I am 37, eight weeks pregnant, and struggling with the decision about whether to have an abortion. The father is a very new boyfriend (length of relationship roughly equals gestational age). He has been very supportive, but I just don't know what is in store for us and, deep down, I do not think that we are the right people for each other, as partners/spouses, long-term. So I am faced with a seemingly impossible decision. Do I have the baby, likely as a single mom (but with this new boyfriend in my life forever -- he wants to be involved even if we do not stay together)? I have a good job and could do it financially (no family/other support in area, though). Or do I have an abortion, even though I want a child very badly, in hopes that the time will be more right later (i.e., I will be in a committed relationship with someone I love)? That seems quite a gamble, at my age. I have thought and thought and talked to a few trusted people in my life (other than the father), and gone to a therapist, but I still keep going back and forth. Any guidance? I (and my little embryo) would be very grateful.

Carolyn Hax: I don't believe my fingerprints (or anyone else's except those directly affected) belong on a decision like this. But I will be honest with you, your question is testing this belief.

So I will just ask you a question or two and hope it's enough:

If you abort and then don't go on to have children, how will you regard your decision then? Actually--how would you reflect on it even if you did meet man, commit, have kids?

Okay, two questions: Do you have it in you emotionally and temperamentally to make this baby feel loved?

I'm sure your therapist probably asked these but they're the ones I'd be asking myself. For what it's worth, I think most "impossible decisions" are ones where you actually do know what you want, but you feel internal pressure to talk yourself out of it.

Come back if you want to talk some more.

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Anchorage, Alaska: Hello Carolyn (online only pls), I live for these chats on Friday! So, want your opinion on something. Do you believe that good things (people, healthy relationships, circumstances, self-confidence) can't enter your life until you deal with, work through and ultimately change or rid of the bad things (people, relationships, energy, attitudes, behavior,emotional baggage)? Thank you!

Carolyn Hax: Thanks!

I think there's some truth to what you're saying, but you're oversimplifying it. Good things certainly can come into your life when you're at your worst; life is largely beyond our individual control, so why should it be any different in this sense? What happens, though, is that your abilities to distinguish healthy from un-, to have confidence in that ability, and finally to act on it, are all compromised by an unhealthy emotional state. So good things enter your life, you're just not in a great position to capitalize on them. Some people manage to, certainly, but I file that under the same category as "love at first sight"--it's a hunch that time happens to reward, where it usually just punishes.

There's my oversimplification.

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Washington, D.C.: RE: Abortion. Forgive me if I missed it, Carolyn, but nowhere in the 37-year-old's question or your response did I see adoption identified as an option. I am a strongly pro-choice male but if this were a friend of mine (maybe it is, all for I know!), I'd recommend she at least look into the adoption route.

Carolyn Hax: You're absolutely right except that I am absolutely unwarrantedly confident she would choose to raise the child. Thanks for putting it out there, it's important that it is.

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The Wrong Gift: Reading your column with the letter from the woman who didn't know what to do about getting a gift that wasn't "her" from her boyfriend, reminded me of a gift I got that I didn't like. I needed a coffee table and had some definite ideas on what style I wanted. My boyfriend knew I wanted a coffee table, so for a Christmas gift he bought me the cheapest looking, ugliest coffee table I'd seen in a long time. It was just the style I wanted to avoid, and didn't fit with the look I was going for at all. He surprised me with it, brought it to my apartment and had it waiting for me when I got home from work one day. I was about to tell him it wasn't quite right, but he was so proud of the gift. He didn't have a car, so he dragged this coffee table home on the bus. The story he told about how difficult it was to get this thing onto the bus, the weird looks he got from the driver and the other passengers, the fact that he had to carry it 6 blocks from the bus stop to my apartment - that was the real gift.

I kept it for as long as we were together (2 years) and never told him I didn't like it. He thought the coffee table was great. Sometimes having an ugly coffee table is worth not hurting the feelings of someone you care about. It's just stuff, it doesn't really matter that much. I figured if we stayed together, we'd replace it at some point anyway.

Carolyn Hax: I thought twice about posting this because I don't want the guy to find out you didn't like the coffee table. Thanks for rounding out what really is a more complicated issue than it appears.

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Online only, please --: Hi Carolyn!

Longtime reader, first time writer. This is sort of a call back to the letter a few weeks ago from the guy who wanted to change jobs. I could be that guy's wife.

My husband has just announced that he hates his job, and that he wants to quit. He comes home every day and says it. The problem is, we just had a baby three months ago, bought a house, and are extremely reliant on his income to survive -- and even with it, we're just getting by, not paying off credit card debt, but staying afloat. He says he wants to go back to school, but he already has two undergraduate degrees, and wants to go for another. We finally compromised, and he has agreed to get his teaching credentials, but for him to even do that, he'll have to take a paycut to about half of what he makes now, and I will have to go back to my old job working 50 hours a week on the night shift, and care for the baby during the day.

I'm trying to be supportive -- I don't want to be the shrill harpy banging the cutlery on the table -- but before I got pregnant, we had a long discussion about how if we had a baby, he would have to stay in his job for awhile, and he said he was fine with that. He just had two months off, and after three months on, he already wants to quit. And he's the kind of guy who wants to make a massive career change every year. We've been married five years, he's 36, and every year he announces he's decided he REALLY wants to be an EMT, a writer/director, an Indian Chief (the last one is a joke) and my fear is, he'll become a teacher, realize that it too is a real job, and want to quit that, too, and that I'm going to want to punch him in the face. How do I support him while still keeping us solvent?

FWIW, I do work from home, in real estate, but the market is a bit soft now, and I'd need to go back to work full time in my old profession to make this plan work, and child care is a real issue where we live. That, and three months out of a c-section, I'd get to never sleep again. I feel as if he's really reneging on our original agreement here, and at my expense.

How do we solve this?

Thanks, and sorry so long!

Post partum-y

Carolyn Hax: He is really reneging on your original agreement here, and at not just your expense--it's also at the baby's expense. Exhausted and angry parents have shorter fuses, they just do.

I think you would be entirely within both your rights and the bounds of decency if you were to say that if in one year from now he still wants to get his teaching credentials, then you will go back to your old job.

He needs what he needs, but he's also heavily invested in a partnership that is depending on him. (The essence of my original answer to the change-jobs question.) He is also not 15 years old. He can defer his need for a limited time until the partnership is in a better position to handle it. If he won't do even that, then he is not your partner. For that I would suggest marriage counseling, stat. I'd suggest it now but only if you can find low-cost services that are available at a convenient time.

Finally--don't diminish your position by suggesting you're "Post partum-y." You have a long conversation in your pocket that outlines your grounds to be p***ed. (Even though his previous history says you should have been more skeptical of his promise, but the way to deal with that now is just to be more careful to root any agreements firmly in what you now know for sure is his undependable reality.)

Finally 2--any chance he's ADD?

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Online only?: So now that your chats will be turned into columns, will requests for "online only" still be respected? Will whoever is doing the editing recognize and respect this?

Not that I ever submitted an online only question (heck, I actually made it in the paper once for a silly question I asked in the chat), I'm just curious.

Carolyn Hax: Online only will be online only, and editors know this.

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Washington, D.C.: I am the 37-year-old pregnant woman again...

Thank you very much for taking my question. Your questions are provocative, but I don't think enough to help guide me to the best decision (on purpose, I do not say right).

They are quite easy to answer. As for the first: I would feel terrible if I have an abortion and am not able to have a child in the future (either b/c I have a complication from the procedure, or don't meet someone, or just get too old). I would look back on this decision and clearly wish I had made a different one. But at the same time, I would know that I had done the best I could at the time, and, knowing myself, I think I would be able to find some peace.

As for your second question -- I without question have it in me temperamentally and emotionally to love this child.

I know very few things decisively at the moment, but I do know this.

I agree with you that the answers to most "impossible" decisions are already known, but not yet faced. This one feels different (I am being I think starkly honest with myself, and still coming up unsure) although perhaps it is not.

Did you get the sense from my question that I had the answer already, in my self (if so, please tell me what came across!)?

Thank you, again.

Carolyn Hax: See, I still see an answer, as do others who have responded to your original post.

Have you done the old coin-flip test? Where you decide the flip will be binding, and then you see how you feel about the way the coin falls?

I've actually had that not work so I don't really offer it any more, but, like I said, I'm champing at the bit here.

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Speaking of Zuzu...: This is the first I've seen her mentioned in a while. How is she doing? Does she still spend time with both you and Nick?

Will she be walking with the Hax Pack to DeFeet ALS?

Carolyn Hax: She knows how Nick gets when she's not around, so she's mostly with him. I do want her to come to the walk, but her rep hasn't returned my calls yet.

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"Rudeness" from "attractive women": Was anybody else as creeped out by the guy in today's column who complained about the rudeness of attractive women in spurning his friendly advances? "I am a friendly guy and routinely strike up conversations with random strangers." Yes, I remember you; you're the guy on the bus next to me who wouldn't stop trying to get me to chat even though I was studying my econ textbook when you sat down. I think if you look in the dictionary under "disingenuous," you'll find his picture.

Carolyn Hax: That's the word, I think. Thanks.

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parents to be: Carolyn,

I'm about 4-months pregnant and I want to set some boundaries ahead of time with the grandparents and others. I'm having a hard time coming up with things that are relevant for infants (my ground rules are more like No TV, no McDonalds). Can you suggest the top 3-5 things my husband and I should set ground rules on before the baby arrives?

Carolyn Hax: Ground rule one: That you will do as little as possible to annoy, obstruct, or impinge on the joy of people who genuinely love your baby. Unless you have actual fear for the baby's safety, get out of the way and enjoy the break these loving other hands will offer you.

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Somewhere in Maryland: Carolyn - A close friend's husband asked me to help him host a surprise birthday party for her. It will be at my house and, realistically, I'll be doing most of the work. Birthday girl has a good friend whose husband offends me with his frequent homophobic comments. I make a point of avoiding this couple, but birthday girl and other friends who will be at the party include them because they like the wife. Am I being unreasonable in refusing to invite him to my home?

Carolyn Hax: Not unreasonable, but you are injecting yourself into a situation that's more about your friend and her good friend. It is your house, and you have final say. You also know better than I do how toxic this guy is. But it's also within your power to remind yourself that it's one night and the gods of principled purity will understand.

For what it's worth, I might feel differently if the wife herself (meaning, your friend's direct friend) were a hate spewer. Also for what it's worth, my answer wouldn't change if the hate speech were misogynistic vs homophobic. Since I feel that challenge brewing even before I've posted this.

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equality: can new Mom go back to work full time and let hubby be Mr. Mom for a while so he can do some career research, etc?

I sympathize with her, but balk a little at the idea that HE has to sacrifice his dreams 100% so she can stay home with the baby. Why can't she work and he stay home? Then it's really about the baby, not what Letter Writer wants.

Carolyn Hax: If they'd both go for it, that would certainly be an option worth exploring. I jumped to two conclusions--that she has already sacrificed plenty for him with the other career changes and she's not going to do it again with her chance to spend time with the baby, and that she's breastfeeding, given that the baby is three months old. But the former would mean they do need counseling stat because that's veering close to scorekeeping, and the latter doesn't preclude her working--obviously, since she's apparently already going to go back. Thanks for making me rethink.

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Baby ground rules: Absolutely no smoking around baby!!!

This is a no-brainer, Carolyn.

Carolyn Hax: Oh, right right. But doesn't that go to endangering the baby? And who actually has to be told not to smoke near a baby? Please don't answer that. I have about two illusions left, and I cherish them.

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Maryland: My friend has never done anything mean to me but the way she lives her life is making me lose respect for her, which she doesn't understand. She gets in trouble at work, she gets very obnoxious when we go out to bars, she's not careful with her money, she's having an affair with someone's boyfriend, and she's asked me to help her cover for some of these things. I'm tired of it, but when I bring it up she tells me if I was a good friend I'd be there for her no matter what. I really don't know what to do about it anymore.

Carolyn Hax: Tell her to stick it. If she were a "good" friend, she wouldn't make you an accomplice to her bad behavior by asking you to cover for her. What she's doing -is- mean. She's pressuring you to do things you know are bad and that she knows you don't like doing. Run, fast, be free.

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Alexandria, Va.: Dear Carolyn, I am 23 and some days I find it so hard to get through my life that I feel like I'd be better off dead. Yes, I've been to the doctor, and I'm taking my meds on schedule, but between lack of sleep, a job I'm not fond of, and overbearing parents, not to mention being money-starved, I'm not finding the joy of life or my purpose. What should I do?

Carolyn Hax: I see doctor and meds, but I don't see talk therapy. Please find someone to talk to; if your employer doesn't have an EAP, call the local American Psychological Association (202-336-5500) and explain that you'd like help finding local providers of low-or no-cost services. See it as someone who can help you work through the list of things you need to do right now: get finances under control, find strategy for dealing with parents, launch quest for new job. These are all typical crossroads, but also complex ones, and it's completely normal to bring in fresh eyes to help you make solid decisions. It really may be that getting even one of these on a more satisfying course will allow you to see that things aren't hopeless.

It's also possible you're not on the right meds, so a call to the doctor would also make sense.

As always, if you ever feel you're about to hurt yourself, call 911. Please take care.

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Making Advances: For what it's worth, I've also done a lot of friendly chatting up of women in my time. And as you say, some people are friendlier and more receptive than others. However, for effectiveness at conveying a lack of interest, no one can top the woman who once returned my greeting with, "Excuse me, I have to go take a (Number 2)."

Carolyn Hax: She must have been really, really hot.

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Eastern US: Re: the rudeness of "attractive" women - I encounter this guy probably 20 times a week. And I'm not even all that attractive any more. Hints for you guys out there who think attractive women are being rude to you "because we can":

- Just because you feel like talking doesn't mean we do

- You're not entitled to a response from an attractive woman any more than you are from any other stranger

- We can tell when you're looking at us "that way"

- If we're doing something else, like reading or listening to our iPods, please don't interrupt

- It is creepy to stare on the bus/subway or any stop/platform

- Please respect personal space and don't get too close. If I can smell your breath, you're definitely too close

- Please don't talk to our boobs

- Don't tell us we're pretty. It's not as big a compliment as you think

Thank you for letting me air this grievance.

Carolyn Hax: I'm here to serve.

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Scorekeeping: I know it's never a wise idea but how do you keep yourself from being taken advantage of? I love giving myself to another person but I'm terrified of it being one-sided. It's happened in the past, and I didn't know it until crunch time hit. I was devastated and embarrassed. What's wrong with just enjoying the relationship and then, when the situation calls for a reevaluation of things, racking up a who's done what for who? Won't that give you an general idea of what you need to know so you can figure out what to do?

Carolyn Hax: Here's the thing. By the time you're actually saying, "Okay, you've had X, Y and Z, so it's my turn," it's usually over--or, a long way down that road. You've been there, right? Are you really "enjoying the relationship" when someone takes takes takes while you give? Or are you just developing an emotional callus that keeps you from feeling it anymore when you're doing the hard work? There's nothing wrong with being attuned to what a partner gives you. In fact, you have to be, to show gratitude. So all I'm saying is that if your gratitude center is so idle it's had to lay off half its work force, then you already know. You don't need to graph it out.

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Surprise Party in Maryland: As a non-straight woman, I'd certainly be loathe to invite the guy into my home, but I think I'd do it (invite the wife, at least) because my friend would want them (well, her) there.

However, once he's in my house, I'd feel more at liberty to call him on his homophobic comments. A "my house, my rules" clause to the Gracious Hostess Agreement. Plus a generous use of the Peanut-Approved "Wow."

Carolyn Hax: Great call, thanks.

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Alexandria, Va.: I read your ALS Web site, but couldn't figure out how to sponsor you (as opposed to sponsoring the event in general).

washingtonpost.com: One way is by clicking on Carolyn's name.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you, Guest Producer Paul. And thank you, too, Alex VA--please report back to let me know if that works.

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New York, NY: I must take this opportunity to air my BIGGEST pet peeve with "friendly" guys that I encounter. Please do not ask me "Why aren't you smiling?" I hate this - I never hear anyone ask a guy this, as if women aren't allowed to have a bad day, be lost in thought, etc. without having to justify it to random strangers.

Argh.

Carolyn Hax: Agh! You're right! People who use it should also know they're daring people to say some really horrible things in response, along the lines of, "Because you're still here." Yes they're just trying to be friendly but it needs to be out there that it is an instant blood-boiler. Very invasive. I hope I have the oh-just-shrug-it-off bona fides to say that. Thanks.

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RE:Alexandria, Va: Add in a verbally abusive Mom, and that was me at 23. After laying in bed for a whole week crying, I finally told myself I can either continue crying here or do something. It was very very hard for me to even get out of bed. I had to basically throw myself on the floor and keep going from there. But eventually I got out and go a new job....then started saving money. Moved out away from my overbearing parents.... And slowly but surely things eventually got better. And here 10 years later I have my own house and live with my wonderful husband (whose helped me with my depression) and my two goofy dogs. I can live my life the way I want. And I'm happy. I still have my depressed moment but they are getting fewer and farther between. That is what your living for. This moment I'm at now. It takes time. We are used to the instant society but hang in there. Please. This moment now is so worth all the struggles I went through to get here.

Carolyn Hax: This from G.P.P., who just beamed me this as an aside:

"i'm with her -- 23/25 are terrible years, you just grow out of them. everyones broke and miserable then."

I'm with both of them. Treat the depression, but recognize the times, too. Thanks.

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Seattle: Man. This place gets hostile. Even if attractive women beating back 5,427 advances get a little tired of it, put yourselves in OUR shoes.

Society has made it men's job to be the initiators in mating situations the vast majority of the time. And it's really bleeping hard to do for most of us. And it's a really, REALLY personal rejection when you get shot down.

At least women who aren't having success in that realm aren't directly slapped in the face with it. (Yes, I KNOW being ignored sucks, but it's a cumulative suck).

Carolyn Hax: Thanks so much for weighing in. You are right right right, that society has made it men's job to initiate. And it is really bleeping hard.

I think (or, thought) the theme in the reactions I posted to the column was that guys were crossing pretty visible boundaries--not taking no for an answer, interrupting women while they were reading or using headphones, etc. If that didn't come through, then I chose badly (I've got a pile of reaction posts here and if you put them all in a lineup, I wouldn't be able to say which ones I've posted and which I've held back).

Obviously (back to sympathy) not all guys are going to be shrewd about the boundaries. But (back to backing the complaints) I do think anyone who routinely gets a verbal slap in the face should ask himself if maybe he isn't being shrewd about the boundaries, and should pull back a bit.

Compromise: We agree Eastern US nailed it and we behave as civilly as possible by those terms.

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Depression: Together depression with lack of sleep can signify a thyroid problem. It might be a physical problem.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Something to raise with the doctor.

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I'm 23, too:...and I feel you. I think it gets better--4 months ago I couldn't get out of bed and the thought of finding a new job, dealing with my parents' expectations, my looming rent, grad school, my loneliness in a new city, where my relationship was going, etc. was too daunting to take in all at once. So I just concentrated on the job (well, and the rent!). I have a new job now, I'm happier, which is making it possible to look to other things--like my parents, grad school or loneliness. It's just baby steps, but, every little day you get through is another day you've faced down and won.

And hey, we're only 23-- we're going to screw up and feel down, it's inevitable. But we can choose what to do with that new information.

UGH--I just sounded WAY too perky for my own tastes!

Carolyn Hax: I feel the love!

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Show Kenny some love!: Spread the sponsorship bucks around, people.

And Carolyn, if you can figure out how we can sponsor Zuzu, please do that too!

Carolyn Hax: Check back next week (after she confirms).

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Carolyn Hax: Nick just called to remind you all that he's chatting nekkid next Wednesday.

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D.C. - stranger questions: and while we're at it (I am male, by the way) don't ask me how tall I am (6-5, if you must know, so not THAT tall) and then take umbrage when I ask how much you weigh. I get asked this question at least two or three times a night when I go out, and it is almost always women (and I'm not that cute, so no way that many women are hitting on me, trust me). I know people see it as a "good" attribute, but it's called genetics, people, nothing I had a choice about (and again, not that tall). I promise not to ask your cup size if you don't ask how tall I am

Carolyn Hax: Okay, but they probably are hitting on you.

But if you would prefer validation I'll take your word for it.

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Why aren't you smiling?: The "why aren't you smiling" embargo is not just for strangers. It also applies to co-workers, bosses, and service people. Such a bizarre presumption that women should project happiness all the time.

Carolyn Hax: Yes. I had meant that to come across--it applies to women, too. It's not just a guy thing, I don't think, it's a nice-thought-but-please-don't thing.

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Chantilly, Va.: For Alexandria, Va -- try the Women's Center in Vienna. They have all sorts of help available, and there's a sliding scale of payment.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.

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Kinderhook, N.Y.: I am thinking Nicks' LIVE NUDE chat will garner quite a local audience if he does it in the conference room at The Post...

Carolyn Hax: Maybe we can build a studio that looks out onto 15th Street, like the morning news shows have in Manhattan.

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Baltimore: I have a bunch of alumni-type events coming up in the near future, for both high school and college. While I generally like my life, I always come away from those events feeling really poor/undereducated/unmarried/barren/trivial compared to everyone else. I've decided not to go to them anymore. I compare it to not liking scary movies -- you intellectually know Freddy Kruger can't hurt you, but if you don't enjoy them, why bother watching? But my friends will not shut up about how fun it will be, how I should totally go, etc. Should I face my fears and go, or can I tell my (well-meaning) friends to give it a rest?

Carolyn Hax: How long ago was the last one you attended? You're certainly entitled to despise them and stay home, but I've found that people get mellower as the reunion year creeps higher, and people are more into just laughing at how fat and bald they've gotten. They also cross farther over high-schoolish status lines to do it.

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For the record: Apparently I'm a good-enough looking guy that women stare at me when I ride the train. Sometimes, they talk to me even though I don't know them! Women harass me at work and make inappropriate comments. This does not make them bad people. Pretty women ain't got no monopoly on being stared at or harassed. Unless you actually feel unsafe or legitimately threatened, get over yourself.

Carolyn Hax: We'll be in touch when we build the naked chat studio.

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Anonymous: Hi Carolyn, a family member recently committed suicide and I am having trouble dealing with it. Can you recommend any type of program/support group to help?

Carolyn Hax: I am so sorry. Try going to www.suicidology.org, and click "links of interest"; you'll see a category for survivors. I can't vouch personally for the site, and the site won't vouch for its links, but I think once we've all finished disclaiming you'll have a decent place to start. Feedback from readers suggests that situations like this bring out the best of the Internet, and provide people who are hurting with 24-7 access to the only other people out there who can really understand what they feel. I hope this helps.

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Carolyn Hax:37 and pregnant--you still there?

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Hoboken, NJ: Hi Carolyn,

(Online only please)

I have been a faithful 'nut for years and think the world of your opinion. I know I'm not the first person to say this (cue whining) but I really, really hope you'll answer my question!

In May I made the decision to quit my day job (I had my own business & worked from home) to pursue writing full-time. I believe I am about 2-3 weeks away from completing my first novel, and I have some folks interested in publishing it.

My husband supports this decision 100% and in fact was the one who gave me the final push to take the plunge.

That's the good news.

However, nobody has read it up until this point so I don't have a clue as to whether or not it's good or just kindling, and that has been a major source of angst. Another huge source of angst is the fact that we halved our income and money has been TIGHT. We're making it, but we are living more frugally than we ever have, even more so than when we were both just starting out. (We're both 30).

My problem is that I feel frozen. I am finding 500 other meaningless tasks to occupy my time rather than just finishing the damn thing and it's driving me crazy. I know I owe it to both my husband and to myself to finish this -- and I've been trying to use that as motivation -- but then I think, these windows look dirty, the dog looks like he needs to go out, I should probably do some laundry...etc.

It's not writer's block; I have no shortage of ideas & I know how the story is going to end. I just can't seem to physically finish it. I know I just have to sit down and do it but I am doing every thing else (including reading on-line chats) but actually doing it.

As a writer, can you give me any guidance or advice to encouragement or a kick in the ass?

I am so close to achieving my dream that it scares me. I don't know whether or not this is the root of my problem or not, and am looking for some guidance.

THANK YOU!!

Carolyn Hax: Maybe the story is just working itself out in your head. You say you know how it's going to end, but do you know how you're going to get from where you are now, to that end?

If even that's all plotted out, then I'd say just sit down, open a separate file, and write it out not as if it's the end of your big project but as an exercise. Write it with the intent of throwing it away, just to remind yourself you can still write.

And if that doesn't work, clean the windows and pee the dog. A little of that can make the writing better once you are ready to start again. You can scrimp a little longer.

_______________________

37 and still pregnant: Is it that obvious I want to keep the baby?

(did I guess right?)

(I sent you a longer version of this a while ago but forgot to

identify myself as the pregnant 37-year-old...)

Carolyn Hax: You can't me reveal it,

Even if you beg.

So I leave it up to you.

Coded bad haiku.

_______________________

37 and pregnant, part 2:

(I am writing this in case you can't find what I sent an hour

or so ago)

But...single motherhood seems beyond hard, and maybe

unfair to the baby and the father (a very decent person).

And it probably decreases my chances of finding someone

I love and want to be with without question, and is semi-

scandalous, and is not what I pictured, and seems

completely impractical. How do I weigh all the negatives

with the one huge positive--the baby. Yes. I do want the

baby. And know I can be a good mother. Maybe the

weighing just needs to go out the window??

Carolyn Hax: Talk to some single parents. If you don't know any, ask among your friends, they're not rare. I might be able to help you if you come up empty.

_______________________

Carolyn Hax: Sorry for the delay. Speaking of babies--I was scrolling to look for postings re the column about the mother-in-law who cried for a week after being told she couldn't be in the delivery room when her grandchild was born. I've only skimmed about a quarter of the posts, but, nothin'. And I have been absolutely buried this week, all week, with people screaming at me at how unfair my answer was. Have people said what they had to say, or is this just a completely different audience, demographically, from the print one?

Not to start a new thread at 2:eek?, but it just occurred to me.

Next week?

_______________________

Carolyn Hax:37, one more thing (and another reason I'm stalling): I'm deliberately not posting reader responses because you don't need us all in your head. I'll hang onto them, though. Check back in after you've made up your mind and there's no going back. In fact, if you could submit to us one more post today (just resubmit something you've already sent, keep it easy, we'll know what to look for) but add some identifying info that I promise we will keep to ourselves, we can then know it's you if/when you do decide to check back in. Thanks.

_______________________

re MIL in the delivery room: I thought your answer was good. Can't believed you got screamed at. Bottom line, being the delivery room means seeing parts of my body that maybe I haven't seen. I think any woman has a right to determine who sees her vagina. Seriously!

Carolyn Hax: Thank you! Egads. I think the issue was largely generational, from people of the age of heavy drugs, many drapes and everyone in the waiting room. I don't know. I'm still mystified.

I'll tell you, it has made me a passionate advocate for natural childbirth. I couldn't believe how little respect that angle of it received.

Not from you guys, the chatters. I mean the emailers.

_______________________

MIL in delivery room: OK, I'll say it. I get that MIL is a pill. I get that mom-to-be is going to do the heavy lifting, so she gets to say who is in and who is out.

But husband has to go to his family and say "we" decided this his how it has to be? When it's clear that mom-to-be unilaterally decided and dad-to-be isn't 100% on board with the decision? Really?

I get that pregnant women feel vulnerable and scared. I get that she gets to make the decision. But she's so vulnerable that she doesn't have to own her decisions?

Wow.

Carolyn Hax: No no, that part wasn't about the mother's vulnerability--that was about not letting grandzilla see an opportunity to drive in a wedge. If the dad was going to defer to his wife out of respect for her as the one giving birth, then it was his responsibility to see that decision through and present it as hers and his--knowing who his mother is and how she's liable to react to his laying it all on his wife. As it happens, it's also one of the most crucial -parenting- tricks they can learn, to hold a unified front. Agree to something, and you own it, too.

_______________________

Carolyn Hax: Egads, this is a record. Bye everyone!

Oh, and 37--please keep a copy of your last submission (I wont' post it) and include it in anything you send me so I'll know it's you.

Please write if you want any help with your research. tellme@washpost.com

_______________________

Crying MILville: I'm the one who wrote you about the MIL who wants to be at the delivery. We finally resolved it. She will be at the hospital, and she will be allowed in once the baby is born. She is not thrilled about it, but she seems to have accepted it. My husband finally came around and talked to her. She admits she does not want me to feel uncomfortable.

I don't see why people think it's unfair. It would be just as unfair for me to be uncomfortable because of modesty issues during the birth of my child.

Carolyn Hax: Okay okay one more--thank you, glad it worked out. Re the natural birth, I'm rooting for you. Tough as hell but totally worth it.

_______________________

Huh? Natural childbirth?: Hax,

Can you explain the link between the drapes and the drugs and the MIL-zilla?

Carolyn Hax: Ask me again next week.

_______________________

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