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Carolyn Hax Live: Handling Nosy Questions, STD Diagnosis, My Friend's Boyfriend Seems Controlling, and Who Pays to Clean the Pricy Purse?

 Carolyn and her mother, Liz Hax (family photo)
Carolyn and her mother, Liz Hax (family photo)
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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 19, 2008; 12:00 PM

In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, 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 was online Friday, September 19 taking 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.

A transcript follows.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

Carolyn is raising money to treat and defeat ALS, the disease that took her mother's life. If you'd like to make a contribution to the ALS Association, click here. Or, spend time with Carolyn and your fellow peanuts at the Walk to D'Feet ALS in Washington on Sunday, October 12. Click here to join the Hax Pack.

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

Carolyn's Recent Columns

Carolyn Hax Live Archives

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Carolyn Hax: In response to your many inquiries after last week's session, here are the resources submitted by readers for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. As always these are suggestions, not endorsements, so please proceed with your usual caution in availing yourselves of any services:

--This website allows you to search for survivor groups, broken up by states and DC as well. Each listing has address and phone contacts so you can see which are located near the Metro/Bus Routes. http://www.suicidology.org

--For the survivor: www.survivorsofsuicide.com

--For the young person who seeks a suicide survivors group, try DailyStrength.org, a Friends and Family affected by suicide group. Not in person, but can be very helpful online.

--Another resource is SPAN (Suicide Prevention Action Network): spanusa.org

--Suicide survivor in D.C.: http://www.suicide.org/support-groups/washington-dc-suicide-support-groups.html

--Suicide Support Group Possibilities: http://www.wendtcenter.org/pdfs/GriefTherapyGroupsSpring2008.pdf

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Carolyn Hax: Hi, everybody. I'm letting a reader take over my ALS plea this week:

"Hi Carolyn -- this isn't a question, it's just to urge everyone to contribute to the ALS walk. My sister, Cindy, died of ALS a year ago this month after a 12-year battle. She refused both the feeding tube and the ventilator (many patients do). Folks, this is the second person of my family to die from this disease and there are no words really to describe how it affects literally every aspect of your life, heart and soul. It is my deepest wish that this horrible illness be wiped off the planet NOW. But until that day comes, please, support this with whatever you can in any amount, in any way. I've considered walking, but maybe I'm a coward -- right now even seeing anyone in a wheelchair sets me in tears. A year after her death and only now is the Novocain wearing off and I find myself grieving, crying jags hitting me out of the blue. But I wanted to add my voice in support of what you are doing, what we all are doing to eradicate this disease. God bless and thanks. Love the picture of you and your mom -- take care."

Me again. You have all done a great job so far, but there a long way to go still. The research on ALS is ... riiiiight ... there ... but it needs a push, and that push comes from people who care.

These are obviously tough times for a lot of people, so if this isn't the year, I understand. If you can be part of the I-can-spare-five-bucks crowd, then that would be a great way for us to make a statement with numbers. As I said before, if we all gave five, our one team alone would collect more than every other team combined.

If you've got a competitive streak, look at it this way: The Hax Pack is in 3rd place right now, and another two grand would put us in 2d ...

Okay I'll shut up now (on this). If you want me to post a refresher on what ALS is about, I'll do it next week.

Thanks again to all who've pitched in so far. Tee order went in this week ...

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Columbus, Ohio: Hi Carolyn,

I love the chats and really respect your advice.

My brother is getting married next year, and I couldn't be happier for him.

However, I'm gay. I'm out to my parents and brother, but not to my extended family. I'm torn about what to say when I get the inevitable "so when are YOU getting married?" question. On the one hand, I don't want what should be my brother's day turn into gossip fest about the Gay Cousin. On the other hand, I'm not thrilled by the idea of gritting my teeth and lying all day. If it were any other day, I would just tell the truth, but I don't want people to remember my brother's wedding day as the day I came out to them. Any advice?

Carolyn Hax: Thanky.

I wouldn't make too much of this wedding thing. First of all, the wedding is not going to be about any one thing--just ask couples who had some hope that their weddings would actually be about them. Even smaller weddings are rambling, hard-to-tame masses of individual minidramas that happen to occur under one tent/roof. Don't over-think it.

And, meanwhile, "When the time is right" is an easy answer you can have handy, since it's correct in all senses of the word, right? It covers the emotional, legal, and political bases. I also don't think it forces you to deny yourself by way of vague answers, because I don't think straight or gay people should give a specific answer to an intrusive and lame question like that anyway.

Last reason: The wedding is Next Year. Dread is a lousy use of one week; to waste a year on it is tragic.

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Egoville: Hi Carolyn,

My best friend has gone through a lot of trouble recently -- family deaths, illnesses, school stresses, and so on. I always do the right thing (really! I'm very supportive!) and I never ever voice this, but my first reacting is sometimes annoyance -- "god, not another tragedy" (roll eyes). It's not like I'm a relentlessly positive or self-reliant person myself, either. Is it normal to have these kinds of selfish uncharitable thoughts, and is the important thing that what you do and say out loud be kind and compassionate? Or do I need to take a hard look at myself?

Carolyn Hax: Sure, that's never a bad idea. You can also take a hard look at her, too, while you're at it. People have many different ways of dealing with a string of horrors, and it's not as if the fact of the horrors instantly makes someone untouchable. This has come up before with the example of the person you can't stand who gets diagnosed with terminal cancer. The diagnosis is horrible, it's not something you'd wish on anyone, but it doesn't mean you have to beat yourself up for disliking the person. It's okay to have mixed feelings.

Likewise, it's okay to let yourself think that there might be other ways to handle a string of horrors, for which you'd have some more respect.

In the end you might come to be more sympathetic to the friend and annoyed at yourself for getting annoyed, but it's better to come to that conclusion after thinking through what you might do if you were in your friend's place. When you just force yourself to be charitable and not even entertain a dark thought, on the theory that dark thoughts are unthinkable, then you rarely believe yourself anyway.

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Re: Gay Cousin: If you don't mind coming out to your extended family, you could do it in advance of your brother's wedding.

Carolyn Hax: I thought of that, too, but then I started to imagine the practical application of that. How exactly to get the word out, without its seeming as if you're deliberately getting the word out in advance of the wedding? Which of course is exactly what you're doing? Maybe now I'm over-thinking it.

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Greenfield, IN: My closest friend is getting married. He admits it is a stupid thing to do because of the issues they have. She wants kids, he doesn't, she hates his kids from his previous marriage and wants him to disassociate from them. We have talked at length about why the marriage will likely fail. I know I'm not responsible for his happiness and it's his life to live. My question is, now that he is going to do it anyway, do I try to be more positive, more optimistic and more supportive on this issue, or do I just try to avoid the topic, which I must note, he continually brings up?

Carolyn Hax: Every time he brings it up, say, I'm sorry, I can't pretend to be excited that you're marrying a woman who hates your kids.

Seriously.

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when am I getting married?: Ok--I'm single, approaching 35+ old maid status. You're an adult; you do not, repeat, do not have to answer every question thrown at you, nor do you own anyone an explanation. Rehearse your snappy answer: gee, I guess when I want to! and that's all you say. Makes some people realize they're being intrusive; the other ones usually don't have the attention span to keep going. I'm ignoring the how-do-I-come out to my family--think that's really the bigger issue, and I don't have any advice there.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, the advice is right in there: You don't have to come out to anyone unless you want to, just as you don't have to account for your marital status to anyone unless you want to.

Just be, man.

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Minneapolis, MN: Carolyn,

I wanted to support your ALS walk but found a major stumbling block when I went to the ALS webpage. There is no security on the donation pages, so if you want to donate, you have to enter your credit card info on an unsecured page. Sorry, but no way.

Carolyn Hax: I just clicked my way there (gave myself 10 bucks!), and I got all the "secure" markings. Please have another look.

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DC: Do you have any suggestions on finding a premarital counselor? I don't have a church I regularly attend and I want to find someone that's good.

Carolyn Hax: I've heard good things from people in the business about programs affiliated with Smart Marriages--with the caveat that it has a strong anti-divorce streak. Which I guess one shouldn't be a problem for pre-marital counseling ... www.smartmarriages.com

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When am I getting married?: Or you can do what George Clooney did recently: "I've never heard that question before! Oh -- I think I'll get married next Tuesday!" minus the snark, if possible.

Carolyn Hax: Take away the snark, and you have complete silence. Maybe just be George Clooney when you say it.

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REMINDER - picking up end of last week's thread: Hi, Carolyn! You'd left off in the middle of a thought last week. Do you still want to comment on the nudging vs. domineering? I'd love to hear your thoughts! (partial transcript below)

I was a "nudged" kid too: But without my mother's nudging I wouldn't have gone to college, or if I had I might've dropped out, and in any event would likely be stuck in a dead-end job.

But isn't nudging what parents are for??? Aren't parents supposed to be constantly encouraging and forcing challenges on you, instilling certain obligations (like getting good grades, being involved in activities in your community, etc), and doing everything they can to make sure you take advantage of every opportunity?

My parents knew every single thing going on in my life as a child because they were involved in every aspect of it. They encouraged and pushed me at everything. But I didn't become an overweight kid who doesn't have their own feelings or beliefs. I went to a top college, have an excellent career, and a great relationship with my parents. Aren't there just some personalities, or just some kids, that can't handle being the over-achieving, involved-in-everything type of person?

Carolyn Hax: We need to take this up again, to work on the middle. Next week?

Carolyn Hax: Oh, right, thanks for the reminder.

That post rubbed me the wrong way, in part because it implied (maybe not intentionally) that it's the parent's job to push, and it's the kid's fault for not being able to handle it. Yuck.

It's a parent's responsibility to know his or her child. There are kids who need a nudge, kids who need to be picked up and carried, kids who need to be left alone. Applying the wrong amount of pressure to a kid at the wrong time can make all parties miserable.

Of course, there are going to be kids, too, for whom no amount of pressure will work, be it some, tons or none. Some people are just oppositional, and will find a way to work against whatever strategy you adopt, even in a well-meaning effort to do right by them.

So the middle, I think, for a parent, is to be constantly and consistently involved, but to hang back just far enough to make out what your kid needs; stand too close, and you're liable to confuse that with what your own ego needs. (And has there ever been a kid in the span of human history who has failed to see right through that?) Once you make out those needs, you do your best to meet them, and you watch the results with your mind open to the possibility that your approach might need some adjusting.

As a kid, what can you do? You do your best with what you're given, taking care not to make your own life miserable in an effort to punish other people (common mistake), and not to become a complete ingrate (common mistake).

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it's secure: Don't be confused by the dialogue box that pops up saying that the page contains both secure AND unsecure information. That does not indicate that it is unsecure. Look at the url (address). It starts with https - the 's' being the important part. That denotes a secure site. You should always check the url on any site you're doing financial transactions on, regardless of what's printed on the page.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for elaborating.

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Jac, NC: I was hoping you would bring up the topic from last week about supportive vs pushy parents. I was watching Good Will Hunting last night and I thought the scene between Prof. Lambou and Robin Williams' character was a great illustration of the two sides. Lambou wanted to "develop Will's talent," to which Robin Williams responded "there's more to life than a g--d-- Fields Medal." I thought the movie in general illustrated the two sides well.

Carolyn Hax: It did--particularly the part about not torching yourself just because you're angry at everyone else. If you were looking for more than I put into my last post, ask away.

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can't let it be: what if you are one of those people that always asks those questions, even though in the back of your head you are telling yourself "stop!" -- how do you just let it be, and stop being so nosy... and maybe competitive?

Carolyn Hax: For starters, I think you have to believe it's really bad, and not let that "well everybody else does it" canard overrule what you're hearing from the back of your head. You're finding a way to justify it, or you wouldn't be doing it. So stop justifying it.

And if you do it anyway, jump in with the verbal equivalent of snapping a rubber band against your wrist. "Ack, I'm sorry, I swore I'd stop asking nosy questions." Not only will you be letting people off the hook you just put them on, eventually you'll retrain your mind to ask about something else.

BTW--competitive? Really? Do you think having a spouse is a competitive advantage, or liability? What if the spouse is funny-looking or broke, does that change one's place in the race? What if the spouse is rich and fabulous but the marriage is horrible?

There's nothing good in social competition. Nothing.

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D.C. : Dear Carolyn,

I have a problem I am not sure how to broach. Over the holidays, I came home for a visit and so did the son of a very good family friend. After years of being very flirtatious and my having a huge crush, we had sex. And then again this Spring when we both happened to be home again. A month later I had a very minor outbreak of herpes. I went to a doctor, and though it is possible for it to lie dormant in your body for a long time, the chances that he gave it to me are very strong, as I had not been with anyone else in nearly two years. Since then, he's been away and I have since moved home. I haven't said anything because I didn't want to say this sort of thing over e-mail or over the phone. Now he is back in town and I know I have to say something to him. The thing is, I don't blame him (unless of course, he knew and didn't say anything), I am an adult and I make my own decisions. And now that I have been diagnosed with herpes I have done my homework and realize that it isn't the most terrible thing in the world and EXTREMELY common. I had NO idea it was THAT common. But, I suppose my question is, how do I tell him? I don't want it to be accusatory and I don't want to be pathetic. Sadly, I still really like him and would like this to turn into something but even before the diagnosis I was not under any illusions that we would become anything more than friends, but I would hate for him, in light of this development, to think of me differently. I have still not yet come to terms with the idea of dating in the future as I am not comfortable with telling ANYONE about this diagnosis. I can't imagine, before getting it myself, that I would have knowingly entered into any sort of physical relationship with someone with an STD, and I can't imagine asking anyone in the future to put that sort of risk on the line for me. So, I guess my question is, how do I tell this guy this is what is going on? The other worries, I suppose will just take time. And by the way, to the poster who wrote in about the boyfriend seeing the herpes medication--do them a favor and be truthful. Lord knows that herpes in itself isn't that big of a deal, it really just is an inconvenience. But the stigma really sucks...

Carolyn Hax: You did your homework, so you probably realize this guy could have it without knowing it (many people are asymptomatic), which means he could have infected others during the time you've stalled.

I'm not going to beat you up for that; you're processing a lot of unpleasant information and you seem to be dealing with it in a rational and straightforward way. However, I will beat you up if you keep stalling. Call him, get together, tell him he needs to get tested because, vagaries of the virus aside, it's a pretty good bet you got it from him, and you;re confident he wouldn't want to infect someone else. Putting it in "this is the way it is" form is neither angry nor pathetic.

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New York, NY: Is it ever okay to, unsolicited, ask a friend if she's happy and okay in a relationship? Recently, I asked her to dinner (a girls thing) and got an unsolicited email from her boyfriend saying things like, "that's not a good day for us" and "we'll see if we can make it."

Basically, none of her friends like him and she's often expressed doubts as well. But this just seemed very controlling and over the top. I'd limit things to facts (He said x, it seemed controlling and demeaning), and basically just ask if she's happy. And hopefully make her think a bit.

Does that overstep any bounds?

Carolyn Hax: That is really disturbing. And I think it's absolutely appropriate to tell your friend you found his e-mail disturbing. You're right that you have to be careful not to put her on the defensive, but at the same time if you wrap your concerns in too much fluff you risk sending the message that his controlling her schedule is okay.

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Hitting the Kids: My husband's sister, her kids and her husband just spent several days with our family. The kids are 18 month old twins. These little kiddos are hit often. No warnings, no chance to correct the behavior just a smack, on the hands, butt, back of the legs wherever, when the kids did anything "wrong." Where I really became concerned was that the kids were consistently hit for "whining". But they are 18 months and cannot speak so crying, making noise is the only way they have of communicating. Not surprisingly, though frequent, there was not much consistency.

Not that it really matters but we have kids of our own. I have seen a lot of parenting, those that hit, those that do not and while not a hitter myself I can see the merit. But this just seemed like too much, too young and without anything else I do not see how it is helping the kids. I am truly torn about this. Is this none of my business, no one is going to end of in the hospital from a smack? I could really use some advice.

Carolyn Hax: This is horrible. There's no merit in hitting, and there's certainly no merit in violently correcting children who are too young to regulate themselves enough to avoid the hits.

I can rant all day about how upsetting this is, but what I can suggest is terribly limited. People have the right to raise their kids as horribly as they want, as long as they don't cross over into physical abuse. (Of course, I would classify this as emotional abuse.) That doesn't mean, however, that it isn't your business. These are innocent, pre-verbal creatures who need someone to speak for them.

Please go to the Childhelp Web site--www.childhelp.org--and read about abuse and what to do. Then, call the hot line and describe what you say. The staffers there can tell you whether its a case for CPS, so you don't have to wonder whether you under-reacted. Even if it doesn't meet the standards for legal intervention, they can help you figure out what to say, when, and to whom.

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Controlling boyfriend: A few things to ponder asking her: -Did she know he was speaking for her? -Was that ok with her?

Something to ask yourself and perhaps ask her: -Would the old friend I know and love, pre-boyfriend, have spoken for herself? Why has she let this change? Is she ok with that because you miss the old independent person and you don't like him speaking for her?

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Just to underscore one thing you implied: It's important to know where the friend factors in here. Ultimately control by one person over another is wrong, but it's a common mistake, I think, for witnesses on the outside to concentrate on the person perpetrating the wrong and not pay attention to the victim. I;m not suggesting that anyone blame the victim, but understanding a little about the victim will make any attempt to help that much more effective.

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Lexington, MA: I was stunned at your answer in last week's chat to the person who "didn't realize there was a universal moral law that prohibits individuals from being romantic with married people." It was the end of the chat, and you replied that you agreed with that statement and added a couple of caveats. Could you please clarify further? Except in some very unusual, extenuating circumstances, it seems to me that one of the main ideas of marriage is that married people are, morally, off limits. People can and often do behave outside the social norms, but it's hard to see how that can be construed as moral behavior.

Carolyn Hax: The reason I responded that way includes those "unusual, extenuating circumstances," since I feel those are enough to rule out a universal law. But I'm not going to hide behind those narrow exceptions--say, if the spouse has suffered irreversible brain damage. I also think there are much less extreme situations where adults should be permitted to make their own judgments and remain within the definition of moral. What goes on between two people--even three people--is their business, not ours, so it is not our business to make a definitive, blanket ruling on when their behavior crosses the line into hurting other people (which is where I draw morality lines, but I don't assume everyone does). Sometimes it's going to be obvious, but other times it isn't obvious at all, and either way it's best judged on a case-by-case basis, not universally.

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What would you do?: Just curious to see what you and the nuts have to say about this...

Office hallway collision. One person accidentally spills a cup of tea on another person, including an $800 purse. It will cost $200 to clean the purse. Do you ask the person who you collided with to help pay for the cleaning??? Or do you pay for it yourself???

Carolyn Hax: You pay for it yourself, since you chose to carry an $800 purse, which includes the risk that you might collide with someone who's carrying tea.

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For Controlling BF: I would definitely ask-- and I think you're a great friend for doing so-- but also be open to the possibility that it was a misunderstanding (maybe of the sort where her email crashed and she mentioned she needed to reply to you so he did it, he misunderstood the invite, or something else). Email can be an awkward form of communication, so be sure to just mention "hey, I thought it was odd that Joe Schmo replied for you; what was going on there?" and let the facts be filled in.

Carolyn Hax: Highly rational, thanks.

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coworkers: I have a co-worker who seems to believe everyone does rude behavior and so it's okay. She pesters me about when I'm having kids and thinks it's just what Americans do when grabbing a pregnant coworker's belly. She's 25 and a little bit clueless, so aside from linking her to this chat, how do I get across that a lot of those things are inappropriate/borderline rude?

Carolyn Hax: Just be direct with her. "That's a very personal question, and I prefer not to answer it." If you're right that she just doesn't get it, then helping her get it would be an act of mercy.

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$800 purse: I agree that it's the purse owner's responsibility, but I detect more than a little judgment in your response. What's up with that?

Carolyn Hax: Nope, my reaction was to the expectation that because the bag was expensive, the other person was going to be held responsible. If cost weren't an issue to the poster, then the question would have been:

"Office hallway collision. One person accidentally spills a cup of tea on another person, including a purse. It will cost $200 to clean the purse. Do you ask the person who you collided with to help pay for the cleaning??? Or do you pay for it yourself???"

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Hold On Theresville: Regarding the question about the 18 month old twins getting hit. It could be a cultural thing....I'm South Asian and my dad and mom were very strict when I was that young. Yes, I do remember. They would hit me for things like eating with the wrong hand, "whining", etc. In our culture, this is how kids are disciplined. I wouldn't take it to the extreme my parents did, but when I see how spoiled some of today's youth are, I'm glad my parents took the coat hanger to me on occasion. Getting CPS involved when it's your BROTHER'S family is a bit presumptuous. They should talk to the brother first. Maybe he's frustrated from the lack of sleep and is acting out. Still not ok, but hey it's possible.

Carolyn Hax: I didn't get CPS involved, I advised getting in touch with a disinterested authority who could advise on whether it's abuse worthy of CPS attention or just, to use your words, "a cultural thing."

And one of the important steps in dealing with possible abuse is figuring out whether it's abuse -before- you talk to the possible abuser.

Please also consider that you might have grown into a respectful adult without an assist from a coat hanger. There are plenty of them around.

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$800 purse, revisited: If the purse's owner has homeowners' or renters' insurance, she should check into whether that sort of damage is covered. I have a rider that covers my jewelry (not a million-dollar collection, but lots of one-of-a-kind pieces) and it doesn't matter whether someone steals it, or a co-worker bumps into me and knocks the stone out; once I meet the deductible, it's covered.

Carolyn Hax: Good point, thanks.

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Controlling BF: Original poster here. Thanks to the others for their thoughts. She didn't seem to know he was emailing - she and I were having our own dialogue, and she was fine with the dates and details, though he obviously wasn't. Which is one of the things that made it so bizarre.

Carolyn Hax: Then I would go with the original I-found-that-disturbing approach. Thanks. It is helpful in general to run your actions through an overreaction filter first, just in case. Since we seem to be on a theme.

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Is it EVER appropriate? : My boyfriend is invited to a wedding and it happens to be in my hometown (several states away). He initially assumed I would be invited as well, but the invitation is addressed solely to him. I have never met the bride or groom but she knows I exist and that the BF and I have been together for nearly two years. BF wants to see if there is some way he can tactfully ask if I could come, but I feel that it is probably not appropriate and these are the things that drive brides crazy. Thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: Not appropriate. I did mention in a column (this week?) that there were limited circumstances where that would be okay, and I don't think this is one of them.

To give you an idea where it might be appropriate, when I wrote that I was thinking if, say, a couple or family were invited who had an exchange student staying with them, they could ask for the student to be added to the guest list. I.e., very limited circumstances where it's okay.

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Washington DC: Hey Carolyn, Wuv your cawum. I suffer from depression and wanted to comment on today's column. As long as the depressed person is seeking or getting professional help and is not asking for help from his significant other, he should make his own decisions. Although LW is trying to be helpful, in a way she's showing disrespect by making decisions for him. By being overly helpful, she's saying, "You're too WEAK to make your own decisions" and ultimately this will deteriorate the relationship. Except for suicidal/crisis situations, we (depressed people) need tough love. The best thing a lover ever said to me (when I was in a depressive dip) was, "I can't make you happy. So, I'm just gonna do my thing, and when you feel better, come on out. You know where I'll be."

Carolyn Hax: Nice point, Elmer, thanks.

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Answering Questions With Too Much Detail: I see some similarities in the column and the question posed by the Gay Cousin. When people ask questions - whether it's about when are you getting married, or why your SO didn't come with you to a wedding - you don't have to give away your life story, or over-explain. Sometimes people ask questions and they don't even want to know the real answer. I can imagine Great Aunt Bertha's shock when you tell her you're never getting married because you're gay, when she was really in a socially inept way just trying to make conversation. Or you friend rolling her eyes when you give her the 20 minute saga about the SO didn't come to the wedding, when a simple "he couldn't make it" would suffice.

I struggle with this myself, and it's a very self-centered way to be, thinking that everyone who you get into a conversation with really wants or cares to know everything about you or every detail about a situation. I've seen the look on people's faces that told me they didn't really want to know that much. And I've often felt that I gave away too much when someone asked me one of those "when are you having kids" questions. You don't HAVE to tell everyone the entire, complete detailed truth about everything just because they ask you a question.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. It can be self-centered, often is, and usually comes off that way regardless. But often, too, it's just another of those joyous side effects of social awkwardness: in this case, nervous blather. Don't know what to say? Say everything!

It's still helpful to know it's neither necessary nor welcome, so people can try to talk themselves out of it before they get into it. But just wanted to clarify.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,

I'm very bothered that my boyfriend of under a year recently refused to lend me $30 when my ATM card did not work. I'm looking for other ways to think around this because we get along in general and are happy for most of the time. So when this happened, I was really surprised and he said he just wanted to make a point that I should be more organized. I'm generally unorganized and sometimes it spills over into his life, but to make a point over $30 when I really needed it and had nowhere else to go? He did reluctantly lend it to me in the end, but I think that is besides the point. what is your take?

Carolyn Hax:1. Get single

2. Get more organized

I don't doubt he was right, but there are ways to be right that are so smug and judgmental that they become dealbreakers. It is not his place to teach you, raise you, shape you into his dream date, or otherwise assert superiority.

That's one way to look at it. The more practical, less judgmental way: You're disorganized. Either he loves you with that part of you included in the mix, or you guys aren't getting anywhere.

Dispassionate approach is more useful, but I had to get the first way off my chest. Yuck.

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Lexington, again: OK, but in the original question the writer was hurt by the affair. That suggests that the situation was the garden-variety marriage where romantic exclusivity is expected ... not one of the special situations we can all think up. I'm not trying to defend the woman's calling the O.W. names, but if we're defining morality as not hurting other people, this still is not moral behavior. It's reasonable to believe, in the absence of other information, that married people are off-limits, and that the other information has to be examined on a case-by-case basis, not that every marriage should be assumed to be a special case unless proven otherwise.

Carolyn Hax: Of course. I've long since forgotten the post that started it. (Actually, wasn't it not even a marriage at issue, but a relationship between people who weren't even engaged?) Anyway, my only point was to explain why I breezed by the there's-no-universal-law. Even the Golden Rule is about the way one does unto others, which encourages attention to details, since it's essentially dictating that you ask yourself what you'd want if you were on the receiving end of your actions.

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wedding invite: hmm... stranger who has no connection to the wedding party trumps a two year SO for wedding invitation?

Carolyn Hax: Fraid so. Two-year SO will be capable of amusing self, not sitting alone in temp home while host family/chaperons boogie badly on rented parquet. It's not about the emotional significance to the guest of the person excluded, it's about the logistic significance of the exclusion. Someone who needs an attendant would also warrant an exception.

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Re: forced lending: OK, fine. It isn't his job to teach her how to be organized. I get that. But why is it his job/duty to be her ATM?? Why does he have to bail her out? Now is he supposed to always plan to be sure that he has enough money for himself and for her? What about other things in her life? Does he have to plan for her job? For her car? Where does his responsibility end towards her?

Carolyn Hax: A stinkin 30 bucks, onetime, lent not donated? That's not making it someone's job to be an ATM, that's a guy who has hit a wall with her behavior and he's taking it out on her. If the behavior bothers him that much, he should give her the 30 and then break up with her. Just one example of a more, hm, honorable? outcome.

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So how do I get a t-shirt?: Not that I donated just to get a t-shirt, but the t-shirt is really cool and I really want one. I gave 50 bucks, so I think I qualify.

I'm glad I can ask anonymously since I would be embarrassed to ask in person.

Carolyn Hax: I wouldn't point and scream, a la "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." I swear.

I will get in touch with the over-50s by email after the walk, to find out T size and mailing address.

Thank you so much for pitching in.

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Hitting Kids Follow Up: Thanks for the advice. I am feeling less ridiculous for my concern. I think my mother-in-law is also concerned. Some odd statements couched as worried about her daughter's stress level. My husband believes as you do that the abuse is emotional more than physical.

I am going to talk to my in-laws tonight and see what they think. This is when being spread all over the country really stinks. Lots of worry and no real means of reaching out to help.

Carolyn Hax: Another good resource is a (good) pediatrician. If you think about it, they're in the position of having to intervene sometimes, and it's without being there every day and without risking alienating the parents--on the theory that it's better for shaky parents to keep coming in for advice that they later ignore, than it is for them just to cut themselves off from sources of authority. So doctors can speak to the issue of what to say and how.

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RE: boyfriend teaching a lesson by not loaning $: I had to borrow cash from the same friend a couple of times, and even thought she may have been annoyed, she just said, "what I do is keep a spare $20 in a separate part of my wallet for emergencies." Now I'm much more organized, but I still keep TWO spare $20s in my wallet. There is a nice way to give someone this kind of advice that doesn't include making the cashless person feel like cr-p.

Carolyn Hax: Well said (you and friend). Thanks.

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Los Angeles: What is your stand on couples counseling? What if you are just dating and love each other but can't move forward unless you resolve some issues? Is it better to just cut your losses at that point? Someone told me recently that by the time couples go for counseling, it is usually too late...

Carolyn Hax: Mixed feelings. Couples counseling can help two people understand each other and themselves better, but it can also help them justify staying together when they're long overdue to break up.

I would say that it can be useful if you recognize, in yourself, some unproductive patterns and reactions that are getting in the way of a satisfying relationship in general. Individual counseling may make sense for that, but I can also see the value of having the other person there to give a fuller perspective of different scenarios.

If you're at all concerned that the person you're with is manipulative, then you need to go solo. There's no fine line there.

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Rockville, MD:"If the purse's owner has homeowners' or renters' insurance, she should check into whether that sort of damage is covered."

NO!! Don't check into the insurance. Homeowners/renter's insurance is really only for catastrophic things (fires/floods/etc). If you make a claim for small things, your rates will go up and you can be cancelled (maybe not after the first, but it has happened). Either way, you'll likely pay more in the long run.

Co-worker used his homeowners' insurance to get a new roof and siding after a hailstorm. I said "Bad mistake, pay for it yourself." He got paid and then the insurance company refused to renew the policy.

Carolyn Hax: Right, right. And it probably wouldn't even exceed the deductible. Sorry, snoozing on that one.

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Washington, D.C.: Re: hitting young children

I am also South Asian, and although I agree that the culture is more permissive of hitting children as punishment, that doesn't make it acceptable or a good way to raise kids. My mom hit us on occasion (and was a firm disciplinarian in other ways), but never when we were too young for us to know better. At 18 months, you can't learn anything from the punishment except that you should fear your parents, instead of thinking of them as the people you can trust the most.

Carolyn Hax: Said it better than I did, thanks.

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Not Necessary but....: It starts with https - the 's' being the important part. That denotes a secure site.

The website only says "http"

washingtonpost.com: The first page is regular http, but when you click on the link to make a donation it takes you to an https page.

Carolyn Hax: That's the way it worked for me.

I hope no one is spooked by this, but if you are, please e-mail me at haxpack@earthlink.net and I can run a PayPal alternative by you. (You can also use that address just to buy a T-shirt directly from me for $20.)

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Blended family: I've been dating someone for 2 years who has a 3 year old child. I have no experience with children and it is very difficult for me adjusting to this lifestyle change. In the beginning, it was even worse because my fiance had an expectation on me to be this wonderful step-mother and would get angry when I couldn't change a diaper and because he expected to me love his son. Now, things are better and we both realize that there is no such thing as an 'instant family'. However, I am still much more relieved when we don't have his son (due to custody sharing) and I still have frustration and concern over not ever really feeling close to his son. I will treat him well, but I know I'm not ever going to have as close a relationship as he does with his parents. Any advice or tips on how to deal with all this? Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: First, please be assured that ages 1 to 3 are--well, can be--a really hard time to get attached to a child. Developmentally kids are just difficult then. They're yearning for independence, but in such a primitive way that they can't even manage their own self-preservation, so they end up asserting this ever burgeoning will against, mainly, the very people who love them most and are trying hardest to keep them safe. Caregivers of toddlers need to be true believers in delayed gratification. And, of course, in the accrued gratification of a million little joys, but when the kid is crabby and those joys aren't happening, you've just got to hang on.

You seem to have a good feel for your role, and so maybe you just need to pair that with some realistic expectations. You can't want to get close--it's no different for a child than it is for an adult. Whatever is going to happen is just going to happen. So instead of forming a big payoff in your mind (your and BF and child as happy little family) and then upsetting yourself with its failure to come true, it might help to start thinking small--like those caregivers, as it happens. Little people bring little pleasures. Start looking for--and cultivating--those.

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ALS Giving: Carolyn,

Reached into the depths of my scrooge-like heart and gave $10. That's a week of coffee treats, to give you a sense of my sacrifice. I'd just like to note that while your encouragement did finally shake my wallet open, I was also touched by the recent Olympic success of Nick Scandone, who won a gold medal in sailing at the Paralympics. He has ALS and has somehow kept himself focused enough to keep sailing. In light of your descriptions of the ravages of ALS, I find this awesome.

Carolyn Hax: Didn't know about that, so I just Googled him. It is awesome. You are awesome. Thank you.

And on this awesome note, I will leave you to your Fridays. Thanks everyone, have a great weekend and type to you here next week.

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Carolyn Hax: Ooh, almost forgot--the ALS Association's EIN is 52-1749047. This will help with matching gifts, which are a huge help. Thanks again!

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KC, MO: where can I see a picture of the t-shirt? I might need one!!

washingtonpost.com: Click on the link in the intro section and you'll see the sketch!

Carolyn Hax: yes--I'll try to get the whole image on by next week, with the writing.

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