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Carolyn Hax Live: Baby Day Ettiquette; Milestone Birthdays

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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 25, 2008; 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 day in The Washington Post Style section and in the Sunday Source, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. 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.

Carolyn's Recent Columns

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San Francisco, Calif.: Caroline, In Sunday's column, a woman asked you how she should have reacted when her sister-in-law asked the boyfriends of the woman's daughters to recuse themselves from a family picture. Your response makes it clear you thought the sister in law was silly to make that request. I don't get that at all. It was a FAMILY photo. Why is it wrong to ask non-family members to step back? No where did the writer suggest that the boyfriends were life partners or in any other way permanent fixtures in the family. My sister had numerous boyfriends in the last decade, relationships usually lasting a year or two. Now that she is married, I think she is GLAD those previous fellows aren't part of our family's permanent photo record. It would make her current spouse feel bad, and in no way were they part of our family during those years. I think we needed more information before assuming the sister in law was out of line.

Carolyn Hax: I hope my response didn't make that clear, because I didn't think it was silly, at least not entirely. I thought the sister-in-law provided very thin justification for insisting, which is different. Etiquette? Please.

I also think that it's pretty foul to tell the father of a family baby to get out of the picture with the argument that he isn't "family." Another reader framed that aspect of it well--had the non-blood relative of the baby been the mother, would she have been asked to step out of the picture, while the baby stayed in?

And if so, I can actually see a reason for that: If the person taking the picture wanted a photo of direct descendants only of a certain relative, that's actually pretty common. One of my favorite pictures of my family is of the four sisters and all the kids. Nothing wrong with telling the fathers to step out of that one, right? Because it's so clear what the point of the picture is?

And that's why I answered the way I did: There was at least one circumstance in which it wouldn't have been at all strange to ask certain people to step out of the frame. And since all the SIL had to do was make that case clearly and nicely--and, even better, invite the excluded people to join in a subsequent, all-inclusive picture--it seemed pretty clear that her whole point was to make a point. And I answered accordingly, that it's not worth arguing with someone who is determined to be difficult (or worth getting all out of joint about it).

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New England: I'm turning 30 tomorrow, or as I like to call it "twenty-ten", I have a good sense of humor about it and I even welcome it.

That said, friends in my thirties are saying I will be "OLD like them" and friends in my twenties are saying I "still look good" and I don't look "older than 25" ... the hell?

Am I from another planet? I thought like.. 87 was old. I'm kind of thinking "Yay, birthday I get cake and free drinks"? Am I missing something?

Carolyn Hax: No. People just don't have enough to talk about. Though I won't believe you don't care until you start calling it your half-60th. Or, even better, your 30th.

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Generic East Coast city: I've been single pretty much since college (a bad relationship). I'm 26 now. For the first few years after I graduated, I felt fine about it. I loved my life the way it was; I went on dates sometimes but I didn't really have room for anyone who wasn't spectacular. I was confident and happy. But now, and for about the past year, it's another story. My self-confidence is rapidly diminishing. As more and more of my friends are getting married, I find myself feeling envious -- which is new for me. I'm in no rush to get married, I just really want that...unique kind of love, I guess.

I'm very social and outgoing (I'm not afraid to meet people). Despite what my self-esteem says, I'm not bad looking. I'm in graduate school now, and my social life has sort of stagnated, plus it doesn't feel like anyone goes on dates here. I occasionally meet guys I'd like to go out with, but, as luck would have it, they never end up feeling the same way about me. Meanwhile, I can be pretty dismissive -- based on gut instincts and red flags -- of others I do go out with. It doesn't help that this little voice inside my head keeps saying "Why is it so easier for everyone else? You must have a problem..."

Help. What can I do to get my confidence back on track and try to find a healthy relationship?

Carolyn Hax: Who says all the relationships around you are healthy? I'd advise worrying less about dating, and working instead on training yourself to be suspicious of herd behavior, vs. jealous of it.

The way you're living your life -is- the path to healthy relationships, just as it was a few years ago. Dating isn't all it's made out to be. Please take this as validation to get back to the business of going about your business. It was before, is now, and always will be the best way to meet people who like you best when you're just going about your business--which is, of course, the way you'll be after you've settled in with someone. Don't start doubting it now just because you've been single for a while. It's honest, it;s subtle and it works. You just need to stop looking over your shoulder and start believing in it again.

If there's a larger issue you're still dragging around from the bad collegiate relationship, then that might be worth a look--thoguh it still won't change any of the advice about (not) dating.

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Anonymous:"Half-60th"? OUCH. This coming from somneone over 50. I think she might have been seeking "there, there" and not a glass of cold water to the face.

Carolyn Hax: Then she's dropped into the wrong discussion. Age is a fact, not a slur.

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Photo solution: Take a picture gleefully with all the BFs, BFs, whoever is at the event. Then say "thanks, how 'bout one of just the Smith family!" Add a few more variations "just the kids," "all the boys."And don't make a big deal about it.

Carolyn Hax: Exactly. Which is done so effectively by so many that the ones who pass on the opportunity to do so are making a point. And so I say let them. The bitter will be punished because their lives are already punishment. No need for others to get their hands dirty.

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In response: Why would seeing photos of a man's wife with previous boyfriends at family functions make him "feel bad?" I'll never understand that attitude wherein we have to pretend that we never dated anyone prior to marrying our spouses.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you for flagging that--I read past it too quickly. It mystifies me too.

I did hear from a lot of people, including professional photogs, that their solution is to place certain people at the edges of groups so they can be cropped out as needed. Some even did it voluntarily, knowing they were just boyfriends/girlfriends. I found the whole thing pretty amusing.

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Washington, D.C.: How long does it take you to respond to the questions that appear in the newspaper? Between your columns and this on-line chat, how many hours a week do you spend on your job?

Carolyn Hax: I read all my mail, too, as well as the outtakes from these sessions, when I can. It's a full-time job.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,

I'm scheduled for a C-Section next month. I don't want visitors at the hospital. Having gone through the C-Section birth before, I know what I'm in for and how terrible the days after are going to be. My father-in-law is flipping out. My husband has explained this until he's blue in the face but FIL is still being a huge jerk and insisting he's going to "just show up anyway." How can we resolve this?

Carolyn Hax: Your husband needs to stop explaining. Your FIL has already made it clear he will not listen, so now you and your husband need to decide what you're going to do when he crashes the party at the hospital. Are you going to ignore him? Play it by ear? Call security? Let him see the baby but keep him out of your room? Please turn your attention to this part of it, to get rid of the what-do-we-do anxiety. Have a plan.

The plan can include, by the way, choosing not to engage in the discussion when he keeps trying to bring it up. He may just want to be heard and it's possible the issue will fade if you quietly stop supplying so much resistance.

If it's not his style to drop it, and if this issue is causing you a lot of stress--which is obviously not good for fetal or maternal health--then you also can try to reschedule the procedure and then not tell him until a couple of days after the fact. It's pretty heavy artillery, though,and could harm your relationship with him irreparably (but then his behavior is probably already doing that).

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Alexandria, Va. - Dating my neighbor: Is dating a neighbor as bad as dating a co-worker? I mean, if it doesn't work out. I'd like to think that we're both mature, friendly and would be civil in said situation, but it has awkward-potential. Right?

Carolyn Hax: What doesn't? Just don't lie to yourself about your ability to deal with it, and decide what to do accordingly.

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Washington, D.C.: Where do you draw the line between being a very easy-going, rational person and being a doormat? I tend to let most things go, just because I don't find them worth fighting for. But I'm consciously trying to fight more, because I'm nervous that I've become a pushover. How do I know what's right for me?

Carolyn Hax: How do you feel? If you suspect the world is taking advantage of you, then a you're on the doormat side of the line (or, of course, you have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement).

If you're fine with your place in the world and it happens to be a generous place, then, yay for you.

Since you're writing, I assume you're the former and not the latter, but occasionally the only difference between the two is a change of perspective. Try on the idea of liking the fact that you're easygoing, and not expecting anyone else to return the favor. If it works, buy it and take it home.

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Anonymous: Do you get a different present to attend a wedding for people who you don't think should be getting married (as opposed to the present you get for people you think will stay married)? One side of me says, "Why waste the effort to get a great gift?" The other (probably better) side of me says, "Who am I to judge?"

Carolyn Hax: I'm trying to take this seriously, but when the first three answers that come to mind are, "Don't give knives," "Don't monogram anything" and "Buy from a store with a generous return policy," I think I have to concede.

I also feel I have to point out that you don't "get a present to attend" a wedding. The gift is an optional gesture to start the new couple off on their lives together. It should be something you're pleased to give, but that suits them, not you. So, if it pleases you and suits them that the gift be divisible, returnable and/or nonbreakable, then so be it.

Great wine would be a subtle compromise, by the way, if that's something they'd like.

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Arlington, Va.: A relative found out my salary (not from me) and now is telling family members and friends what it is. How should I respond, especially when they try to double-check the figure with me? I am really annoyed.

Carolyn Hax: For some situations, only Hunter S. Thompson will do: When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. Please feel free to respond to these inquiries in whatever way amuses you most at the moment.

This will be a non-issue in a matter of weeks, of not days, so in the meantime you might as well wring as many grins from it as you can.

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C Section plan: Have the hospital keep your room number and telephone number private to the public (ie., people who call in). Also, don't give him the number when he calls or you call him.

Problem solved. He won't know where you are.

Sorry, I'm not super high maintenance or anything but birth of one's child = you have the right to set this type of boundary. You are physically uncomforatable and very vulnerable. Not to mention you want the time to bond with your new family member. FIL will have PLENTY of time to see baby after you leave. Make clear to him that you are very excited to see him AFTER you get home.

Carolyn Hax: Like it, thanks.

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Silver Spring, Md.: To C-Section in Washington, D.C. - Honey, lighten up. Yes, C-sections suck - I've had three - but this is a new baby being welcomed into the family. The legions of family and friends that trooped in and out of my hospital room is now a happy haze (26, 23 and 18 years later). Your FIL is happy to have a new grandchild. Your husband can entertain him. Just say yes to the pain pills and blissfully doze off. Oh, and congratulations on the happy event.

Carolyn Hax: I would agree with you, except that doing this would reward absolutely unacceptable, boundary-trashing behavior by the FIL. People do not have the right to bully their way into places they aren't welcome, period. It's not about the legitimacy of his appeal, nor is it about the ease with which his appeal can be satisfied. Appeasing a bully is never a good answer, and it isn't here, either. The baby will still be a baby four days later, and can be welcomed then.

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Me Again: Unfortunately, I can't reschedule the c-section. The baby has a heart defect and will require a pediatric heart specialist to be present at the birth. Trying to get the specialist and my OB on the same day was already a huge undertaking.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for writing back. I know that kind of surgery is not uncommon, but it still must also be a scary time for everyone--maybe even more so for the people not directly involved. Counterintuitive, I know, but when you're in on all the discussions and meetings, it can have the effect of calming you where others who are less informed remain anxious.

This element might also shed some light on the FIL's bullying. Could it be he is scared, too, and feels totally out of control, and this is his way of getting control of some small corner of it all? Unfortunately there are many people who feel better acting like monsters than showing fear.

If so, that still wouldn't make it okay to act like a monster, but if he's afraid he won't meet his grandchild, that could add a missing element of sympathy. Has your husband tried talking to him about he feels--or, better, listening--instead of just explaining over and over how you will feel?

Good luck with it all.

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Falls Church, Va.: I often feel that people don't like me. I do have friends, siblings and a wonderful husband but I often feel left out of connections at work or in other social settings. I am friendly and have often been told that I am a very good listener. So, I don't really understand why people don't warm up to me. I am way into my 40s and have felt this way all of my life. Any suggestions? Thank you.

Carolyn Hax: Some people are just harder puzzles to solve. The advantage is the people who like you really like you, and the disadvantage is that not as many people are going to like or even know you. You can try to reconnoiter and rewire yourself, but acceptance seems more productive.

Look at it this way. Every human trait has a spectrum. There are people on the prettier end of it than others, people on the brighter end, more artistic end, on the more athletic end. The human experience, for everyone, is to fall in the middle of or the wrong end of at least one spectrum, and usually more than a few, and, surprise, it's usually the one or few things we really want to change about ourselves. It's so common, so -normal,- there should be a stages-of-grief plan for acceptance of one's perceived failings.

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Helena, Mont.: RE: CSection -- but I think the health problems make the FIL even worse. Why is he adding to the stress of the mother? He should be supportive of his son and daughter-in-law, regardless of his own feelings and lack of power.

Carolyn Hax: Absolutely, I agree. But they need to deal with the person they have, not the person he would be if he were a mature and functioning person. And since his fierce disregard for boundaries won't go away when this C-section goes away--but instead will persist if not worsen when the issue becomes getting involved with the life of his grandchild--this couple needs to find a way to deal with it now that advances the cause of dealing with it later. It may come to the point where they have to bar the door and damn the relationship. However, if an effort to get at what's really driving this bad behavior has a chance at being productive, I think it's something they have to try. The door-barring will still be there as a backup plan if the effort to appeal to his emotional side fails.

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C-section: Man, I just had an unplanned C-section several months ago, and it really, really sucked. I would have HATED it if anyone had shown up in my hospital room, but I felt that way even before I knew I was having a C-section. Some of us are more private than others, so being told to "lighten up" about something this personal isn't very helpful. It really is a very personal decision that should be respected, especially since everyone will see the (very uninteresting) newborn soon enough.

Carolyn Hax: Clap clap clap clap.

Speaking of stages, I think there are stages of perception: 1. When all you know or notice is yourself; 2. When you think everything that you have felt applies to others as well; 3. When you realize that others can go through the same thing as you but not feel the same way as you did; 4. When you can put yourself in other's positions and understand what they feel. Everyone knows Stage 1 is obnoxious, but people stuck in Stage 2 can almost be more so, because they think they know something about you.

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Anonymous: Carolyn, my best friend is getting married this spring. I'm extremely happy for her, and I am going to be her maid of honor. The big problem is her mother, who despises me. In college, friend and I dated for a bit. I was her first girlfriend, so her mother blames me for "turning her gay." She (mother of the bride) called me up last week and told me that I should resign my position because it's "not appropriate" for me to stand up there. She hasn't said this to my friend. No one -- including Friend's future husband -- has a problem except for this homophobic mother. Should I even say anything to the bride?

Carolyn Hax: What would you be hoping to gain from it? This isn't a veiled yes or no opinion, it's a question I think you have to answer as honestly as you can before you decide. On the one hand, I could argue that you'd be doing your bride a solid by absorbing this particular stress for her. On the other hand, if you have reason to believe the bride's mom is going to make a scene about it, then you need to prepare your friend by telling her.

And I could also argue the in-betweens, where I point out that you and your best friend became best friends by not keeping stuff like this from each other, and that, if I were the bride, I would want the chance to know the truth about my own mother.

Pointing to the right answer are the details you can see much better than I can. Where do they point?

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Washington, D.C.: I was really shocked at your advice during last week's chat about the girl whose boyfriend didn't stand up for her when someone else trashed her. You said it's not always necessary to do that and that the relationship and everything else stands on its own. Wow. Much like the reader, I am also a very loyal person. It's not about "controlling the airwaves" around me. It's about seeing someone who claims to love me stand up for me. There's a huge difference between a friend giving you some negative feedback about an SO and just outright trashing someone.

Letting someone just get by not doing anything in a situation like that is a slippery slope to other things. First it's a friend, then it's an in-law making a comment about weight or your own kid calling you a b----. I need to know I'll be supported. If I know that then the relationship will crumble or survive. Not standing up for someone and having a strong relationship just don't go hand in hand together.

Everything's easy when you're all lovey dovey. But these are the times when people's true colors show through. I'm surprised you'd endorse neutrality. I'm sorry the poster went through a breakup but it was necessary. This guy's heart just wasn't in it.

Carolyn Hax:1. There's such a thing as not dignifying outrageous remarks from irrelevant people with a defense or any other serious response. I thought I was clear in my answer--if he did anything to indicate he agreed with the trashing, then he was wrong, but otherwise I believe a non-answer is a legitimate dissent to those remarks.

2. I have no patience, frankly, with slippery slope arguments. They take judgment out of the equation, and judgment is everything. If one's in-laws cross a line, then of course you expect your mate to stick up for you. Unless of course it's such a tirade that the appropriate response is to walk a way in silence.

Point being, whether you're supported or not is something you already understand, know, trust, from the accumulation of your experience with someone. If you're reduced to parsing the responses to specific people in specific questions to decide whether you're being supoprted, then you've not only crossed the line into controlling behavior, but you've also pretty much admitted you're with someone who doesn't support you.

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To Anonymous: I vote for telling the bride. If she's your best friend, and you suddenly beg off the maid of honor duties, it will hurt her. Then there will be a big inquiry as to why, and you'll be taking the hit for doing nothing wrong, where the mother's the one with the problem. Let the mother's stupidity and homophobia stand out for what it is.

Carolyn Hax: Her declining to be maid of honor never even occurred to me as a possibility. If that's what the mother wants, then she needs to say it to her daughter's face.

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Land-of-confusion: She's driving me crazy. She's that woman, the one who I get all excited to talk with, look forward to running into in the hall at work, am glad to spend time with. The one I'm head over heels for. Nothing romantic has happened, though I guess we've been on a date-ish evening or two. We'll make plans, she'll cancel, she's push to reschedule, we'll hang out, I'll ask out again, she'll say yes, she'll postpone. It's a weird cycle, and it's starting to wear on me. How do I know if I should fish or cut bait? Do I lay it out on the table, or do I take the lack of prioritization and flakiness as friendship only, and maybe not even a good one at that?

I'm a 30 year old man, for heck's sake. I feel like a 14 year old again. This stinks.

Carolyn Hax: Quit for a while, at least, since it's torturing you. It'll help both of you figure out what you want.

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Re: Salary Blabber: Isn't one's salary nearly as private as, well, anything we as a society consider totally private? Shouldn't the poster confront the relative who "somehow" found out the poster's salary and is revealing it without permission to relatives AND friends?

Carolyn Hax: Sure, but do you think anyone who would do this in the first place is going to show any respect for a request not to?

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Maid of Hon, OR: To Anonymous: I vote for telling the bride. If she's your best friend, and you suddenly beg off the maid of honor duties, it will hurt her. Then there will be a big inquiry as to why, and you'll be taking the hit for doing nothing wrong, where the mother's the one with the problem. Let the mother's stupidity and homophobia stand out for what it is.

Carolyn Hax: Her declining to be maid of honor never even occurred to me as a possibility. If that's what the mother wants, then she needs to say it to her daughter's face.

That's what homophobic Mom demanded, though.

Carolyn Hax: Right. And the maid of honor can say no, I won't do that unless Bride asks me to, since she's the one who asked me to be her maid of honor in the first place.

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Maid of honor: Did you ask the MOB if she's voiced her objections directly to the bride? That would have been my first question/reaction. If the MOB hasn't discussed it with the bride (and I'm guessing she hasn't), then my next question would have been why not? My final statement to the MOB would then be that only if and when the BRIDE asks me to step aside will I do so. I'd then tell the bride exactly what happened. I'm guessing that the MOB's feelings about her daughter's lesbian relationship with the friend are very well known, and the bride won't be surprised by this.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for spelling it out.

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Minneapolis, Minn.: Hi Carolyn,

When my husband and I were married, we both believed in God, though I wasn't too keen on going to church. Now I'm on some kind of journey where I am strongly questioning the existence of God. I'm not sure where I fall on the spectrum of belief anymore, and this is hurting my husband.

The presence of God was one of the things my husband admits he dearly valued in our relationship, and it saddens him that it isn't there anymore. He understands how I feel, though, since his faith was tried at times, but while he came back to God I've been honest in saying that I may never.

I wonder if I am doing a "bait-and-switch" on him, since he DID marry a believer at one point and didn't count on this. I do mourn my loss of faith, but he knows he cannot ask me to change. How can I go about my journey without hurting him or my marriage? Is faith really one of those things that can make or break a relationship?

Carolyn Hax: A bait-and-switch would mean you knew your belief was gone or shaky, but represented yourself to him as a believer. If that's not the case, then you're just something far more common and not at all sinister: evolving.

Some couples last while the individuals in them evolve, and some don't. I'd say it was a matter of communication--and that is a huge factor--but even that won't save a marriage of people who don't feel committed to each other any more. All it can do is get the issues out in the open and get the people talking, which in turn merely improves the outcome; it doesn't ensure one outcome or the other.

It sounds as if the issue is in the open and you are talking, so the next suggestion I'd make is to get a trusted, creative and informed third party involved. Not every clergy person is going to be a good counselor, obviously, but a lot of them are; some even hold credentials in secular counseling fields. Your situation also isn't uncommon. It might be worth a session just to hear how others in this place have approached it.

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Re: Falls Church: I think many people get notions that "something is wrong with me" from their families. E.g., my mother was a "never met a stranger" type; I'm friendly, but not that outgoing. She thought everyone should be like her and convinced me that if I followed my natural inclinations I "wouldn't have any friends." In fact, I always had a small but close group of friends, and every time I moved to a new school/city/job I soon made a whole new group of friends (while staying in touch with the old ones). But I thought of myself as a social klutz and a misfit until I was well into my 40's.

Falls Church should look at the situation objectively: what is it that she wants that she isn't getting? If the answer is "I'm happy with what I have, but I think I should be different," then what needs to change is her view of herself, not her behavior.

Carolyn Hax: Gee, thanks, Ma.

It's an interesting idea, and I bet familiar for a lot of people. thanks.

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Argh: How do you stop your dad from bashing your husband behind his back? Hubby is trying to get his employment act together but dad insists he's doing things the "wrong" way, even though dad initially thought his plans were a good idea. Dad keeps telling me this, and I keep standing up for hubby. Is this the right approach, or should I tell hubby? I'm so confused, and torn between two guys I love.

Carolyn Hax: Your dad can keep trashing your husband, but you don't have to listen to it. "I understand that you are worried, but I prefer not to discuss it." "Dad, I'm hanging up now."

Of course, if your husband is doing something "wrong," then you need to stop defending him to your dad and instead be honest: "You're right, he is doing X when he should be doing Y, but I've said my piece and I feel I need to give him a chance to work this out his way. I hope you'll be able to support me in this."

And finally ... don't tell your husband. If your father says something valuable, then you can pass that along, but he doesn't need to hear about--and their relationship doesn't need the strain of--his FIL's no-confidence vote.

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Salary-asking relatives: Bonus points if you respond to them with, "One meeeeeellion dollars!" and place the tip of your pinkie finger to the corner of your mouth.

Carolyn Hax: Eggzackly.

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Anonymous: Thanks for the advice about two months ago regarding hopw to act at my brother's wedding after my stepdad called my now-husband a terrorist 2 years ago. I did not go out of my way to speak to him, did not really greet him but did not act openly hostile either.

At the reception, he shook my husband's hand and went into a long apology how he had mistreated me over a number of years and he was sorry for his behavior. He now wants the whole fam to go on a weekend trip for his 50th birthday. It's strange how things turn out sometimes... it feels like hell has frozen over. I still don't feel 100% settled about everything, but I am happy for the turnaround in his behavior.

Carolyn Hax: Great news, thanks.

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Ohio: I've been kind of peeved at my folks for what I see as disparate treatment between my sister and I. My partner and I asked Mom and Dad for help ($5K) with the down payment on our house, they said no. That was understandable to me, until they agreed to pay over $10K for my sister's wedding less than a year later. Am I right to be peeved, or are these just two different things? Does it matter that I'm gay in a state where wedding bells will not be ringing for me anytime soon?

Carolyn Hax: I don't know, does it? Certainly on the surface it looks like it matters, but, then, it's also possible it doesn't; your parents wouldn't be the first to have weird, under-examined attitudes toward giving money to their grown kids. Some won't give a nickel for grad school, but will pay for weddings, and haven't thought through the possibility that one kid might never get married, or that tuition money often multiplies while wedding cash goes in a shredder.

So, you can do a couple of things. You can ask why 10k is okay for a wedding when 5k for a house isn't--but only if you can really get the tone of it into the just-out-of-curiosity range, since going into it angry will make you sound like you're trying to start a fight.

You can shrug and say, well, maybe marriage will be an option 10 years from now, and you can collect your 10k then.

Or you can also do some deep breathing and realize you're a grownup and your parents are, too, and you;re all free to make your own choices. If you have a bigger issue with the emotional side of your parents' treatment of you, then you can take it up with them as a bigger issue.

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Norfolk, Va.: What do I say to a friend who keeps acting like schedules just can't mesh to visit? I have a friend, Becky, who moved back home in Aug, which is 2 hrs from me. She does have 2 kids, 4 and 20 months, and a husband who doesn't help too much. But, they are living with her parents so they don't have bills and daycare is pretty easy for her. When she first moved back she wasn't working, and neither was I (maternity leave).

I once considered her a best friend. However, in the 8 mo since my son has been born, she's never visited. Not once. She'll email on a Thu every once in a while asking if a weekend is okay, but that's usually when it's not going to work for us. I suggest other weekends, long weekends, etc., but I never hear from her.

I used to call, but I never got a call back. Not once. I even asked her about that on the ph and in an email. I have since stopped calling.

The last time she wrote and said "...our schedules never mesh..." I laughed and told her that I'm usually free, so let's set up a time. She said she can't commit to anything.

Do I just keep kind of laughing at the emails? I went out of my way to visit her kids, even driving 9 hrs to do so. Or is this how it goes when people have kids.

Carolyn Hax: Certainly having small kids can make it hard to commit to things, since you can make a plan even just a couple of days in advance only to have the 20-month-old up half the night the night before and blah blah. What makes it harder is some parents shake this stuff off just fine, and so people wonder why the ones who can't are demanding flexibility that seems (and may well be) unreasonable to ask.

That said, what you describe struck me as how it goes when people are -depressed.- She's got two toddlers, an unhelpful spouse and she's back in her parent's house. Dunno about you, but that's my description of hell. Is she okay? Have you asked?

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Carolyn Hax: Was scanning for another question when I noticed the time. That's it, thanks for stopping by and type to you next week. have a great weekend.

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Ohio: My MIL invited me to a sex toy party....seriously...sitting next to her while she's holding something phallic takes disturbing to a whole new level. Honestly it will take me weeks to stop blushing!

Carolyn Hax: Just a bonus to anyone who's still out there.

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