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Carolyn Hax Live: The 2008 Holiday Hootenanny of Horrors

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Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2008; 12:00 PM

It's one of washingtonpost.com's most beloved annual traditions -- the holiday-themed edition of Carolyn Hax Live. It started way back in 2000, and happened most recently about a year ago... which must mean... why, yes!

Carolyn was online Friday, December 12 at 12 noon ET taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. And then suddenly, when you least expected it, a full-blown holiday hootenanny of horrors took over the chat!

A transcript follows.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

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

Carolyn's Recent Columns

Carolyn Hax Live Archives

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Carolyn Hax: First, the Hax Pack T-shirt update that I keep forgetting to post: I've shipped out all the shirts from my first order. I'm about to place the second order this week; I waited because there were still some requests trickling in. Sorry for the long delay, and thanks for your patience. I'll post another update when I've sent the last of them, so people who haven't gotten theirs can write in to let me know.

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washingtonpost.com: Carolyn's grinchy computer is rebooting -- stand by please! -- Elizabeth

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This isn't reeeeally holiday-related, but: It's me, the woman who wrote in last week asking for advice on proposing to my guy on his birthday. Just wanted to let you and the 'nuts know: I asked, he said yes, we're getting hitched next year! Thanks for the encouragement. :)

Carolyn Hax: 1-2-3 Awwwwwww.

Congratulations. And don't worry, the holiday mayhem isn't till the second hour (though both my computer and my wireless connection have apparently both gotten into the eggnog).

But this might be an opportunity: Anyone up for scripting a holiday family drama for our soon-to-be newlyweds? You have an hour, though if you put it off and don't start writing until 12:58, it'll probably be even better.

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Blended Family Again : Hi Carolyn!

Just wanted to thank you again for your words of advice and for the kick in the pants I needed when I wrote in a few weeks ago about my in-laws discriminating against their stepkids. As it was, my mother-in-law gave me the perfect "in" for a heart-to-heart when she told me her plans to give my kids checks for Christmas (while shopping for all sorts of toys and clothes for the bio-grandkids).

The conversation made it clear that she really didn't realize she'd been doing anything wrong. Basically, she figured my kids already have four grandparents and didn't need two extras. A direct quote: "I just figured the last thing the kids wanted was two more wrinkly old people fussing over them." Whether she was being completely honest with herself is debatable, but the bottom line is, she promises to take a closer look at her behavior and to spend 2009 working on a relationship with her new grandson and granddaughter. Thanks again!

Carolyn Hax: More good news to report, thanks.

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Carolyn Hax: Leading with these heartwarming developments will make it that much better when the wheels fall off the bus in hour 2.

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Farragut, D.C.: For logistical reasons, my S.O. lives at my place on the weekends. For the most part, it's fun. But I usually live alone, and I'm set in my ways. I'm trying to be less rigid.

In particular, I see weekend mornings as downtime - quiet, relaxed, lazy. I need the time to sleep in, keep to myself, and recharge. It's my routine. I'm usually go-go-go for the afternoons and evenings.

I've explained that it's nothing personal, I'm not being rude, but I just really need him to leave me alone and let me rest in the mornings so I'm in a good mood for the rest of the day.

My S.O. will start bugging me by 10:00 about what's for breakfast, when am I getting out of bed, what are we doing today, and so on. It's making me nuts! I've suggested he just fix himself something to eat, or go out without me, or make alternate plans, but instead he sits around, tapping his foot, trying to nudge me out of bed and out the door.

I get that he's bored, but I'm a busy person and he's intruding on the only quiet time I get all week! Is there an effective way to talk this out, and work out a compromise?

Carolyn Hax: Have you given him a time: "For practical purposes, I do not exist until 11 a.m." Or whatever. A clear line would make it easier for him to structure his own time, without his having to worry that he'll "miss" you if you happen to get up earlier.

BTW, answering this way is taking all the restraint I can muster. I find it completely unacceptable and verging on disturbing that he can't just respect your wishes and leave you alone. But since you haven't thrown him out, dumped him or said you were on the verge of throwing him out or dumping him, I'm figuring you're more annoyed than outraged, so I'm trying to answer from that perspective.

But I mean really. A grown person who doesn't know how to go out for a bagel or read a newspaper? I have no patience for people who can't find a way to amuse themselves in a world that offers an endless supply of fascinating things to do.

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Decorating: whose burden?: I really want to paint the walls of our apartment. My boyfriend wouldn't mind the change, but isn't nearly as interested as I am. In my opinion, it's our place, we should both take part in home improvement projects like painting. In his opinion, this project was my idea and I'm the one who wants to do it, I should be the one to pick up supplies and check with the leasing office. Who's right? (FWIW, he's agreed to help with the actual painting once I do all the preliminaries.)

Carolyn Hax: He is. The fact that he has agreed to help you paint is more than enough of an effort from someone who would be just fine with leaving things the way they are.

And in the spirit of projecting way more than I have any business projecting, you might want to consider how often you get on his back about other stuff. Meeting each other halfway doesn't mean putting masking tape right down the middle and designating your half and his half.

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Washington, D.C.: A while back there was some discussion about a friend asking another friend if they want to get together on Saturday and the askee saying, "Well, what do you have in mind?" I think the general consensus was that this was rude.

I am that person a lot of the time. There are just some things that I don't want to do. For example, many times a group of us will email throughout the week that we're all going to go out on Saturday, but we haven't decided where. Saturday rolls around and the group decides that they want to go to, say, Adams Morgan. I have long since stopped having fun in Adams Morgan on Saturday nights so my answer is, "I really don't want to go there. I'm going to stay home." Does this make me a jerk?

I don't want to be a "it's my way or the highway friend," but at the same time, why should I go somewhere I know I'm going to be miserable?

Carolyn Hax: Actually, my answer (not sure I can claim it as the consensus) was that all your response needs is an, "I'd love to see you," before the, "What did you have in mind?" The problem is when it comes across as, "If you're doing something that amuses me, I'll tolerate your company." As long as you're clear that you're receptive to the people even in you're closed to the specific activity, there's nothing wrong with saying no to certain things the group agrees to do. If you set the friendship-compliance bar that high, we'd all be either jerks or lemmings.

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Springfield, Mass.: My sister and I just got married this year and my mom is constantly criticizing my husband for not being as helpful and warm as my brother-in-law. BIL "John" helps her out with repairs, remembered her birthday and is bringing homemade dessert to Christmas dinner. My husband "George" is, in my mom's words, "just a little sketchy." (Based on the fact that he is moderately shy and has a child from a previous relationship.)

John and George are so different, it's like comparing apples and oranges. She's hurting my feelings with this, and it's making me feel more and more defensive of George and less connected to her. But how do you tell your mother to back off? Particularly when she's entitled to her opinion (like anyone)?

Carolyn Hax: Wow. Have you had any other indications that your mom is verbally or emotionally abusive?

Two reasons: One, the behavior you're describing is shockingly rude. Even grownups on the obtuse end of the spectrum find a way to put a wan smile on their faces and say, "George is ... quiet, isn't he?" Which is awful in its own right, but it's an I-recognize-boundaries awful.

And, you're not responding as if your mother's criticism is a stunning neglect of boundaries. You're wondering if it's even okay to take one's mother on.

So, I realize this is a broad and difficult question, but, what's the history here? How would -you-describe your mom?

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Los Angeles, Calif.: I'm falling for a co-worker with a steady boyfriend. This was completely unintentional; we've just been spending a lot of time together, and I've been getting increasingly interested. It really flared up at our recent holiday party.

In addition to her boyfriend, I'm one of those people who has managed to reach 30 without learning how to date or even attempt to leave the friend zone. Frankly, these feelings just hurt, because I know they can't go anywhere. I want to pull back and just stop spending as much time with her (we mostly see each other at happy hours, lunches, etc.). Should I attempt to explain this to her (she'll ask why I'm no longer around)? Explain to a mutual friend? This has happened twice before, and led me to move to a new job in a new city, but I'm getting a little old for that.

Carolyn Hax: Why not just continue on your course and see where it goes? The whole "friend zone" thing is suspect to me, for one thing. And, why do you "know" these feelings can't go anywhere?

If you're getting the back-off sign, any back-off sign, from her, then that of course changes my answer. Since the last person to recognize where the line is between ardor and staking is usually the stalker, I think it's imperative that anyone with unrequited love err on the side of backing off.

But if it's just that she has a boyfriend, then, well, that's not a "never," that's just a "not right now."

Of course, there is one argument for not spending as much time with her: If she does ask why you're not around so much anymore, that's your prime opportunity to say you have feelings for her and you didn't want to complicate things. Then you can go on with your life, and if she has any interest--now or later--she knows where to find you.

As for telling a mutual friend ... ah, no. You may feel you're behind for a 30-year-old, but that just means you need to pay extra attention to what 30-year-olds to, and to what it makes sense for them to do; that will help you catch up. Communicating through friends is what people do when they're afraid to talk to the opposite sex. Even though a lot of people go through life with that fear, once you're past the teenage years it's a fear you can't really bypass. Just have to stand and deliver.

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Alexandria: My God. I am reading today's discussion and all I want to do is to tell people to embrace their Inner Yeller. When someone keeps trying to roust you out of bed in spite of your pleas for them not to, you snarl at them and make them sorry they didn't listen to you! When your mother trashes your husband to your face, you say "What the hell is the matter with you, Mom?" Believe me, you are serving the greater good by making them feel violently uncomfortable about their rudeness and presumptuousness.

I mean, really, I am honestly not (much of) an abrasive person, but good Lord, it's worth it to know how to set a hard boundary.

Carolyn Hax: Standing, clapping.

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Springfield again: I would certainly not describe my mom as abusive or even unusually critical. She has never been like this about me and my sister, for instance. She is kind of protective, though. She didn't like the fact that I was dating someone with a child, which I think drove a wedge between her and George from the get-go. But mostly I think she doesn't know what the mother-in-law/son-in-law relationship is supposed to look like, so she's choosing the one she likes better (her relationship with John) as the model against which to measure this one. I don't need her to adore my husband, I just need her to be nice to him and not "accidentally" rub it in his face that she appreciates John so much more.

Oh, and I don't know that she's displayed a "stunning neglect of boundaries." She never calls George sketchy to his face. She does, however, make little jokes: "John's already fixed my doorframe, George, so just let me know when you're ready to do the windows!"

Carolyn Hax: I'm talking about her boundaries with -you-. The way she's denigrating your choice, arguably the biggest choice you've ever made, that says the most about you than anything else you've ever done, is flat-out unconscionable.

So maybe that's your approach: "Mom, do you realize what your constant criticism of George is saying to and about me?"

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outings w/friends harder and becoming one-more-thing: I'm in the midst of an e-mail exchange w/3 friends trying to find a time when we can get together - without children or spouses - or just without children. For a number of reasons (3 kids, usually wonderful husband who pretends to be helpless, full time job, both of us travel) it's hard for me to get away to hang out w/my friends who have a lot of same responsibilities I do but well - seem to have an easier time escaping. I'm getting resentful as it's one more thing I have to fit in - or on a really grumpy day - one more person I'm letting down. I say - go without me - but they insist on working around me and then I'm the road block.

Carolyn Hax: If the reason you're not going is that your perfectly capable but not-interested-in-stepping-up spouse is going to pout so much that getting out wouldn't be worth it, then you need to re-read the post about unleashing one's inner yeller. Though this doesn't necessarily require a real yell, just a soul yell: "I haven't had time with my friends lately, and I need some time with my friends. Surely you can understand this, and cover for me. Thanks." And then go.

If you're really just struggling to schedule it when you're rather go to bed early, then please don't mistake their eagerness to see you as pressure. They're choosing to be flexible, so take their generosity and flexibility at face value and hold out for a time that really does suit you.

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For Los Angeles: No one knows what is going on inside you. The object of your crush has no idea that you are (relatively) inexperienced and have feelings for her, and thus are feeling awful about things and are unnecessarily really hard on yourself. Somehow, you'll have to get past your excessive questioning and self-doubt, and gain the quiet self-confidence that will allow you to take the next step, regardless of what complex (and probably inaccurate) story you are spinning in your head about your crush's feelings. You need to be able to do this without becoming a stalker. Although I'm female and in my late 40s, I could have written your post when I was in my 20s. I've been happily partnered for 15 years. It wasn't until I was in my early 30s that I realized that the dating world is two-way, and that any date is just as much about my determining my feelings for someone as his for me. I was able to turn a horribly rejection-filled experience into something more like a shopping expedition. I did have a lot of therapy to help me along the way.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, an interesting take.

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Farragut, D.C.: I was raised to be polite to houseguests, so that's why I haven't snarled when he tries to nudge me out of bed. I've been worried that ignoring him was a rude way to treat a guest. But if someone's there every weekend, I guess they're more of a roommate than a guest.

Come tomorrow morning, I will hurl a pillow at him every time he nags me. At least until I run out of pillows.

Carolyn Hax: That's right, he's not a guest.

The pillows may be rhetorical flourish, but they're coming across as an is-it-reeeeeeally-okay-for-me-to-be-annoyed? cutesy poo hedge. Like getting a baby voice when you're asking for something that's hard to ask for, even though you have every stinkin right to ask for it.

Anyone with a similar story to this, where being "raised to be polite" has resulted in the trampling by others of your needs or clearly stated wishes, needs to read "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker.

ASAP.

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RE: Springfield and the MIL: Interesting that she immediately defended her mother to you yet seems unable to defend her husband to her mother. This one is going to be a Christmas horror story for next year's installment.

Carolyn Hax: Alas, Springfield, the mystery chatter has an excellent point.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I've been in counseling for mild depression for over a year now. I felt much better for a while -- maybe four or five months. Now, I can feel myself sliding down again. Any thoughts on getting through the holidays?

Carolyn Hax: This question really has two answers, an emotional one and a physiological one. (Like depression itself. ) For the phys side, you can do yourself a huge service by becoming your own best caregiver. Get some exercise, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy foods, resist the sugary/fatty/high alcohol temptations, get some air, seek out places, people and experiences that relax you, and avoid the ones (as possible) that stress you out. All these things really do help alleviate depression, to varying degrees.

On the emotional side, if that's where you think the problem is:

1. What is it about the holidays specifically that gets you down? Seeing X relative, being alone, not having money, never getting a gift you want, watching Y and Z fight ...?

2. If it happens every year, then that specific thing probably, in your mind, tells you something about yourself that you'd rather not hear. What is it?

3. What evidence do you have from other areas of your life that this is true about you? What evidence do you have that it isn't true?

4. So, in general, when you're thinking clearly, would you say it's true, or not?

5a. If it's true, then you can probably get through holidays or other tough times with some key reminders that this crappy message isn't really true. Or just with the fuzzy belief that it isn't true, and the faith that it will sharpen again on Jan. 2.

5b. If it is true, then it's time to deal with it as constructively and realistically as you can. Since you're already in counseling, that's a natural place to start talking about it.

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Giving the Gift of Fear: Don't recommend it as a Christmas present though. It just comes across wrong.

Carolyn Hax: Ha.

And, will you look at the time ...

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Not Always Fear: I think you took a massive leap, from saying that weekend-SO was immature and insensitive (I agree with you) to saying that he's a stalker, worthy of DeBecker's book. Sometimes a brat is a brat; sometimes a jerk is a jerk. Those qualities don't make them stalkers.

Carolyn Hax: Guess you haven't read it? It's not just about stalkers, it's about respecting your own boundaries, and then learning to enforce them with others. That simple transaction can go wrong in many ways--including when people take advantage of you (a la weekend SO), which isn't life-or-death, but is certainly content-or-miserable. Not spotting a dangerous person is only the extreme end of an awareness-of-selfhood continuum.

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Carolyn Hax: Wait, one more before Pops takes a bow ...

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A question for Springfield: You say that your mom is protective. I knew a man like that once. He was so protective that he didn't want me to see my friends, have a job or go anywhere without him. I lost him in a hurry. Often, "protective" actually means "really, really controlling". Especially when the person being protected is an adult.

Carolyn Hax: Ding ding ding. Thanks.

Springfield, we'll be here again next week if you want to talk about this more.

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washingtonpost.com: Feel free to post non-holiday stuff to next week's chat.

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We want The Night Before Christmas!: That's all. Holiday time, bring it.

Carolyn Hax: In these time-iest of times, it is particularly timely (or, in his own words, "as fresh as it could possibly be after about thirty-five years." So, in all its Popsian glory, here it is:

Pops's The Night Before Christmas

2008 Edition

Twas the night before Christmas,

and we're in big trouble

there's just been a burst

in our financial bubble

The stockings were hung

by the chimney with care

With hopes that old red-nose

Would have something to spare

The children were nestled

All snug in their beds

We parents were downstairs

Drowning our dreads

And ma had just finished,

Putting a pail out

She was hoping that we could

share in the bail out

Out in the street

There was grief and tooth-gnashing.

Like the sounds that you hear

When the market is crashing.

I flew to the window

And threw up the sash

The one I'd just fixed

With the last of the cash

The moon on the breast

Of the new fallen snow

Lit the shreds of the stocks

That I once thought would grow

When what to my wondering

Eyes should appear

But a miniature sleigh

With five tiny reindeer?

The little old driver

Had a bulging red pack

Why just five deer?

Santa had to cut back.

A little bit slowly

His coursers they flew

When your team's down three,

What can you do?

On Mitzy, on Bitzy,

On Frank, Brad and Fred.

"C'mon guys, get with it!

Let's move this here sled!"

To the top of the porch

To the top of the wall

"Let's get this thing over!

We're starting to stall!"

As dry leaves before

The wild hurricane fly

Meet with an obstacle

Mount to the sky

So up to the housetop

The five deer they strained

The look on old Santa?

Decidedly pained.

And then in a twinkle

I heard on the shingles

Much prancing, much pawing,

Like a party for singles

As I drew in my head,

And was turning around

There was Saint Nicholas

Sprawled on the ground

He was dressed all in fur

That much was certain.,

Except for his undies

Which were made from a curtain.

A small bag of toys

He had flung on his back

"Don't have much now, kids.

I hope to be back."

His eyes, how they twinkled.

With love, cheer and grace.

His cheeks were like roses,

No, the ones on his face.

His droll little mouth

Was drawn up like a bow

And the beard on his chin?

Well, where else would it go?

The stump of a pipe

He held tight in his teeth.

Made it difficult to talk,

Tho he thounded like theeth.

He had a broad face,

and a little round belly.

Which stuck out so far,

He could see his shoes rarely.

He was chubby and plump

A right jolly old codger.

I laughed when I saw him

And woke up the lodger.

He pulled on his finger,

And twisted his head.

Then he passed gas.

His face turned all red.

He spoke not a word,

But went straight to his pack.

He pulled out a toy train,

But he hadn‘t brought track.

Then laying a finger

Aside of his nose,

He passed gas again,

Up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh,

To his team gave a shout.

The Dow's in the toilet!

And I'm almost tapped out!

He yelled at his deer,

"Up up and away!

I'll be using the bucket,

In the back of the sleigh!"

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Do Thanksgiving Shenanigans Count?: One year after a bunch of drama with my family, I went home to a friend's house for Thanksgiving instead.

Where I ran into the inevitable "all the dirty family secrets come spilling out" holiday. Turned out her parents were on the verge of divorce (we knew her father was cheating), and her mother chose that night to bring up the cheating again. Which led to him threatening her with a knife, her breaking a wine bottle and threatening him with the broken neck, an "I'll kill you like I killed my first husband!" with 2 adult daughters looking on going "WHAT FIRST HUSBAND?" and urging me to "YES GO AHEAD AND CALL THE COPS" -- which I was defeated in by not knowing the address I was at, and her father managing to get the phone out of my hand before they could tell it to me (I was the only one with a shot at this being taller than the father and having the b*lls to actually make the call).

I was certainly appreciative that my family's level of dysfunction didn't rise quite that high after that. Oh, and apparently the mother's 1st husband did exist and really was found in a closet dead by some method I can't remember almost 20 years later. Whether or not she did it is well -- who knows?

Carolyn Hax: My mental process: 1. is this for real; 2. If I lead with it, will it leave any room for anyone else?

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Disasterville: Last year my boyfriend and I went to his family's huge Christmas party. I didn't really get a lot of people in his family gifts because I figured I don't really know them. I did get a couple nice Christmas decorations and made some brownies for his Mom and Dad which wasn't an expensive gift, but I thought it was nice and heartfelt. They gave me a present (which I told them they totally did not have to do) - and it was a very VERY expensive purse (in the neighborhood of $400)... with two price tags still on it! I was mortified! What made things more awkward was that they gave my boyfriend a DVD - which probably cost about 1% of what the purse cost. People kept commenting on how nice the purse was - like they couldn't believe the parents got something that nice for someone they HARDLY know. I wondered if maybe it was a mistake and they had meant that present for someone else... my mood started to really deteriorate after the 10 or so family members asked me when my boyfriend (of 1 year) and I were going to start having babies.

Carolyn Hax: But you still have the purse?

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Sacramento, Calif.: When your birthday lands during the "holiday season," the horror stories can get even worse! With a birthday five days after Christmas, I got used to "combined" gifts and receiving gifts long after the actual date (because people are so shopped-out by Xmas that they can't possibly remember anything happening during the dead zone between Xmas and New Years!).

The topper, tho, was my grandmother across the country. In latter years she turned into one of those crazy hoarder types who kept every newspaper, egg carton and ketchup packet she could get her hands on. Before that, though, she was simply -cheap-. When I was a kid, she'd mail us one big box via last-class postage; sometimes it'd get to us three weeks early, sometimes two months late. Out from the big box the year of my seventh birthday came a small package with my Xmas present: a left shoe. In an identically wrapped box with instructions not to open until my birthday five days later: the right shoe. She also cut a cardboard "book" of Life Savers in half and included half with each "gift"! My mother, being most kind, actually told me at the time, "Obviously, you don't have to write two thank-you cards to your grandmother". Those shoes alone almost added an entire year to my therapy as an adult.

Carolyn Hax: More abuse of perfectly good accessories.

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McLean, Va.: The first Christmas after we were married, my husband and I drove 8 hours to Upstate New York to spend Christmas with my in-laws. I baked homemade Christmas cookies the night before, and I brought a tin of them to share with everyone when we arrived. My mother-in-law (MIL) quickly whisked them away to the basement, saying that the rule in their house was no cookies until Christmas Eve.

I was a more than a little offended since I had taken the time to bake them the night before and Christmas Eve was a still a few days away. Who takes something a guest has brought and announces that instead of serving it, you're putting it in the basement?

I only felt better after dinner that night when my MIL pulled out a stale cake for dessert--my sister-in-law had made it a few days earlier, but MIL didn't want to serve it until we had arrived. When we went up there for Christmas last year I didn't bake anything--we brought Bailey's instead.

Carolyn Hax: Tally so far:

II abuse of innocent baked goods

II emotional abuse of perfectly good accessories

I death under suspicious circumstances

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Washington, D.C.: This is one for the books: We are not going home (across the country) for Christmas this year because of Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving we had twenty people over to dinner including my husband's family and my parents. The afternoon started with me in the kitchen preparing the meal and most of the crowd in the living room snacking on hors d'oeuvres. As I continued to replenish the trays I watched as the most expensive ingredients were being depleted at a much faster rate than I would have thought. I then realized that my Mother in Law was sneaking into the kitchen filling dinner plates with smoked salmon, caviar, and handmade (by me) gruyere cheese puffs. How does one respond to that? Why was she doing it? Because she and her son, my brother in law, were high and had the very expensive munchies. This annoyed me but what can you do, family is not always convenient. However when they proceeded to go out on the patio and light up I freaked. Have I mentioned my father is a federal judge? Oh and that one of the guests who had not yet arrived date was a DEA agent? All things all of the guests knew, as we had just been discussing the guest list.

I did what any insane/sane person would have done -- I flushed the bag of weed and smashed the glass pipe with the flat side of my cleaver and tossed it into the fireplace. Most people at the party had no idea what was going on. For some people, please don't smoke in my house is not understood, but for my family apparently even fear of prosecution is not enough. Hence the cleaver! So can "smash the pot pipe with a cleaver" be a part of the holiday song next year? LOL

Carolyn Hax: Hm. It works so far:

Smash the pot pipe with a cleaver,

Fa la la la la, la la la la!

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Madtown: My grandmother was also notoriously eccentric and um, frugal when it came to gifts.

One year, she got my brother a half-full bottle of Avon perfume (not even cologne). He was 7 at the time.

We got into the habit of opening her gifts as part of our one-present-on-Christmas-Eve tradition, just so we'd have plenty of time to get the laughter out of our systems before we called her on Christmas to thank her.

The topper was the year I received a huge, gaudy metal pendant that had a giant padlock on it, with a key dangling from it. When I put it on and stood up, it hung right in front of my crotch. We all stared in silence for a moment and then someone said, "Wow. Grandma got you a chastity belt."

Carolyn Hax: Wonder if the drafters of the DSM-V would be interested in this transcript.

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Washington, D.C.: Got my first taste of my new in-laws' holiday letter this year: 2 pages, double sided, single spaced. 90% dedicated to every cough, sniffle, and case of diarrhea they endured in 2008. Significant space dedicated to one particular 6 inch pus-filled abscess. Our wedding got a brief mention at the end. Happy holidays!

Carolyn Hax: If you'd like, I could make an argument that this is a compliment.

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Washington, D.C.: A truly kind mother would have helped you write two thank-you notes:

Dear Grandma, Thank you so much for the beautiful left shoe. It really made my Christmas fun and unique. I used it to hop all the way around the house in the snow. Whee! Love, Child.

Dear Grandma, The right shoe was great! It was a wonderful birthday surprise! My right foot happened to start to get frostbite recently, so I don't know how you knew I needed it but it's just perfect! Thank you so much for the thoughtful birthday gift. Love, Child.

Carolyn Hax: This just subtracted a year from my therapy, thanks.

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holiday party horror story: About 6 years ago I went to the Christmas party of a fairly good friend. I knew that my boyfriend and I would be the only straight couple at the party, which was not a problem for us.

We get there, and the first thing I hear is "OH MY GOD! WHO INVITED THE STRAIGHT PEOPLE?" I turn around to see a fairly famous local TV celebrity whom I had NO idea was gay, and spent the rest of the party lecturing us about the importance of us not outing him. Which we never would have done.

Then I see my gynecologist there. Not a big deal, but he is drunk as hell, and also (as I find out later) doing some illicit drugs. Which is a serious problem because 1) he was on call and 2) he was my closest friend's OB.. and friend was on the verge of giving birth.

So between the badgering of the closet queen and freaking out about medical ethics, I had a little too much to drink myself and ended up booting all over my vintage 3/4 sleeve faux-leaopard coat on the way home.

ugh.

and yes, I did report the doc to the medical ethics people. what an arse!

Carolyn Hax: I stand corrected, by the way, on whether that first anecdote left room for anyone else.

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Dallas, Tex.: This is second-hand, but it's the opposite number of the purse story. My friend went to a boyfriend's family's Christmas gathering and had agonized over what to give the BF's mom. She settled on some really extravagant perfume and hoped it was OK. The mother liked it, but then my friend opened HER gift from the mother. It was a hanger. The metal kind, with yarn wrapped around it.

Carolyn Hax: Anyone want to try that thank you note?

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Estrangement?: Hello Carolyn,

How timely that I have family dysfunction/holiday problem. I strongly suspect that my mother has broken into my email. She's done this to my other siblings and she's great at guessing passwords. At Thanksgiving dinner, and apropos of nothing, she began quoting from an email I had written to my best friend, where I expressed concern about my boyfriend's willingness to commit. Of course, I have never discussed this issue with my mother or any family member, so she would have no way of knowing my concerns. After her quote, my mom then offered to the table the helpful advice that I should "end this relationship now, while there is still time." (Catch the veiled reference to my age?)

Here's the problem: the boyfriend's coming for Christmas. Got any suggestions?

Ho ho ho...

Carolyn Hax: Change all your passwords to "momsucks."

How do you still have guessable passwords?

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Fairfax, Va.: I was just informed that my MIL wants to give me a Safeway gift card for Christmas. My husband usually gets from her a gift card to REI or to Brooks Brothers. I am a stay at home mom. I buy groceries for the family -- yes. We do not have financial problems that would suggest we need help buying groceries. I'm not opposed to that as a gift -- as we will definitely use it, but to me it seems a bit off that I get the grocery gift card and my husband gets the gift card for him to get something for himself. It is generous as always, but this is the same woman who bought me stretch mark cream for my birthday when I was pregnant, and last year gave me as my Christmas present a gift card to a baby store with the instructions to buy things for our kids while my husband got something cool for himself that he had wanted for a while. I don't think it's mean spirited at all (clueless maybe?) -- but it still hurts... how to handle? Husband is very supportive and has tried in vain to explain to his mother how this might be better given as a gift to both of us than as "my" present. The grocery gift card seems worse, like that is all I do is grocery shop/she couldn't think of ANYTHING I'd rather have? I'd be much happier with a mall gift card or something that could be used more places but suggestions are not always well-received.

Carolyn Hax: Know how I just made the point earlier today that grownups don't communicate through third parties?

Your husband needs to talk to his mother--not the "this would be better as 'our' present" eggshell-dance, but an outright, "Mom, this is like giving someone a vacuum cleaner; it says, 'Merry Christmas, now go do some housework.'"

_______________________

Guessable Passwords: Or Mom's a hacker and running codecrackers on her kids' email accounts.

Carolyn Hax: Funny today, standard tomorrow.

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Best Christmas Present ever!: My great-aunt was another everything-saver, known for buying massive quantities of junk, saving everything, and giving inappropriate gifts. The first year I was married, she gave my husband -- who she knew was Jewish -- a nativity set. But, hey, at least he didn't have one already.

But my all-time favorite was the toast press. A little plastic doohickey. You toasted your bread, then pressed the doohickey into it, and it would leave the impression of a smiley face. Best. Present. Ever.

Carolyn Hax: Google "Holy Toast."

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The boyfriend grinch: My boyfriend has not introduced me to family or friends, we've been dating for months. When I brought up the holidays as I do not have family within thousands of miles and he does he said "he wouldn't be bringing me to his family for the holidays since it isn't that serious and he'd only bring a woman he's going to marry home". Now we spend several nights a week together, travel together etc. Is it time to say goodbye, or is there something else I am missing?

Carolyn Hax: Your exit line: "You're right. I won't be marrying you, so it's best that I make other plans."

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Christmas Carpet: My MIL is awesome. I love her to pieces. She has a few blind spots, and one of them is how her house is falling to pieces. The carpet was installed when my husband was two. He's 38. It can no longer be vacuumed because chunks of it get sucked into the vacuum cleaner. She covers the holes with a variety of scavenged carpet remnants and old bathroom rugs. The plushy kind with vinyl backs. If the rugs get kicked aside, splintered bare floor is revealed.

We've hinted, screamed, begged, offered to replace as a gift, everything. This Christmas, two newly crawling babies will be there for the holiday, mine and my favorite SIL's. We sat her down and said look, we love you, we're not germ phobes as proven by the time we let the dog share toys with our babies, but we will not let our infants crawl on this floor.

She said she understood.

Recently she proudly showed off a big new looking rug in the living room.

When we asked where/when she got it, she bragged about how her neighbor was just going to throw it out.

It turns out it was the neighbor's basement rug, and it was being thrown out because there's been a flood.

MIL hosed it off and let it dry over her fence for a few days.

I cannot seem to explain what E coli contamination is.

Should we give up?

Carolyn Hax: Um. Is your MIL broke, and too proud to accept the gift?

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Ex-Washington, D.C.-ite: When I was a kid, in the 70s, we'd spend a couple of weeks and travel to see older relatives most Christmases. From northern Wisconsin we'd head south to one set of grandparents, then a set of great aunts in other towns in Wisconsin, then a long haul -- 1500 miles -- down to Florida to the other set of grandparents. Since older relatives weren't up to the whole Christmas tree ordeal, but liked having a tree, my parents, in their infinite wisdom one year provided a full-sized (well, 5 feet tall) real tree. We would set it up at each house for a couple of days, decorate it, open presents, take it down and go to the next house. The important detail in this do-good endeavor was that we were traveling in a Rabbit. (The car, not an animal.) It was technically a 4-door hatchback, but adults got cramps sitting in the back seat, it was that small. We had two adults, an 8 year old, presents to and from 9 people, luggage and toys for a 2-week road trip... and a live tree that traveled INSIDE the car. I was used to sleeping in the car on long road trip nights, but for this trip I barely had the room to move my head. Our family, ever since, calls sleeping in the car 'tilting' because that was as far as I could move to get a bit of sleep on that trip.

On the way home we'd bring lots and lots of oranges and grapefruit that we picked ourselves while in Florida. We'd have to bring all the bags into the motel at night to keep them from freezing. On one trip we stayed at a slightly more upscale place and had to walk through the lobby and around the pool to get to our room. One of the orange bags broke while getting it out of the car. We had no other bag. So my dad tied the ends of a pair of his old gray work pants, stuffed the pants with the bag-less oranges and walked to our room. Half way to the room -- each with a bag of oranges in some form -- we realized that we were walking through/around a wedding party by the pool. With a bulging 'bag' of pants. We weren't homeless or hippies, but we sure looked the part while walking through a wedding with a bulging pants bag. My dad is still slightly mortified at the the thought, and Mom and I still laugh.

Carolyn Hax: All I want for Christmas is for someone who was at that wedding to see this.

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Safeway gift card: No, no, no! Safeway is the uber-gift card. They carry zillions of other gift cards, so you take your Safeway gift card in, and then you choose from the rack of a bajillion cards. This is NOT "go do some housework", this is "I don't know what to get you, pick something you like!"

Carolyn Hax: I still think it's "go do some housework," but at least it has a happy ending. Thanks.

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Dishware: For the last five years, my sisters in law and I have all received those white casserole dishes with lids. Different sizes each year, but the same sort of dish. We all make our contributions to the big family meal in those dishes, and share a chuckle at how everything on the table originated with Mom.

At Thanksgiving she asked my husband to go to the basement for more soda, and he was in the middle of a conversation, so I said I'd go. Bear in mind that it's not really a basement, it's more like a crawl space that got dug out a bit deeper so my FIL could put in a bigger water heater and an extra fridge. I'd never had a reason to go down there, and never had in five years of marriage.

I found out later that when his mom found out I'd gone, she freaked out.

The reason she freaked hit me as soon as I pulled the light bulb chain - she had ten boxes of "20 Piece Bakeware Sets" all marked 90% off, from a store that went out of business five years ago.

Two conclusions: These will be the womenfolks's gifts until 2015, and I am TOTALLY the favorite, I've gotten all the big ones so far.

Carolyn Hax: It's like Toto exposing Oz.

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Xmas abroad: I moved with my boyfriend to his country and his family is generally entertaining, but they are from a way more gregarious, everybody in your business culture than my reserved Midwestern family, which has caused occasional embarrassing moments for me (like when 5 different people had to inspect bites on my stomach after I was attacked by some mystery insect). But the best was the other Christmas when my BF's brother and aunt got in a hot debate at the dinner table about whether or not our new 2 bdrm apartment was the right size (his position: it's good to have some extra space and now they have an office. her position: if you're young and in love you really only need one room). To wrap it up, the aunt said (in front of his ENTIRE family), "well, the important thing is that you two enjoy your bed. just enjoy your bed." I nearly died.

On the plus side, she's very religious and I always thought she disapproved of us living together. evidently not!

Carolyn Hax: Just enjoy your bed, I guess.

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Best Gift Ever: My Grandmother once gave my cousin Billy one of her old gold fillings. Still in the tooth....

Carolyn Hax: Still in mouth?

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Chantilly, Va.: Wait, Wait... I HAVE it...

At Thanksgiving this year, my dear Mother stood behind me as I was stirring something on the stove and remarked, "Dear Heavens, I had no idea you had put on so much weight, your butt is huge!"

Wow, thanks, Mom !!!

p.s. - I'm 5'7", weigh about 140 and have been thin all my life until menopause hit !!! But still...

Carolyn Hax: Sorry, not this year.

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Silver Spring: Not so much family drama but certainly family trauma: One year my cousin brought all 4 of his young children to the family Christmas Eve dinner. All 4 were sick with a terrible stomach flu and they vomited and pooped their way thru the evening. Within 24 hours the entire rest of the family - to a person - was sick. This included elderly grandparents (in their mid-80s) who ended up sick enough be admitted to the hospital. I wasn't even well enough to eat and was weak as a kitten and was called to help my grandfather with my grandmother who was sitting on the toilet and unable to get up. We had to call Fire and Rescue to take her to the ER. Merry Christmas to all.

Carolyn Hax: And to all a good virus.

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Regifting: Hi Carolyn, last year at Christmas my mother-in-law gave us a coffee table that wouldn't fit in our apartment and we regifted it to my parents, who had been in the market for one anyway. This year, my mother unexpectedly invited my in-laws to Christmas dinner at her house. Coffee table is still sitting prominently in the middle of Mom's living room where my husband's parents will definitely see it. Neither set of parents knows about the regifting, but they will. What do we do here?

Carolyn Hax: Anyone want to write the caption for this cartoon?

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Tooth: Nope, fortunately had been detached from mouth many years previous. He still has it, and threatens to regift it to one of our significant others one year.

And my aunt, who lived with my grandmother and suggested the gift, still can't understand why this might not have been the world's most amazing gift. Then again, she once gave my dad a "tax shelter"...it was two tacks underneath a piece of wood.

Carolyn Hax: I think your only choice is to give a nod to the Reindeer Poop, mount the tooth on a plaque (get it? plaque?) and start circulating it through the family across successive Christmases.

Surrender to it.

_______________________

Newport News, Va.: This past Thanksgiving my boyfriend and I spent it at my parent's house. I proceeded to sip a bit too much champagne and told my whole family (including my teenage siblings, way to be a role model!) that if my bf had taken me to prom in high school (we dated very briefly his senior year, then reconnected years later) I would have 'put out.' I really thought my dad was going to have a coronary right on top of the turkey, with my bf right behind him! It was not the proudest moment of my life, but at least I have a story to share for years to come!

Carolyn Hax: As do your teenage siblings.

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Short One: One Christmas, I was proud to give my new husband a leather coat that I'd found a really good deal on. He opened it, held it up, and much to my horror said (correctly), "This is a woman's coat."

Carolyn Hax: If you kept the coat for yourself, you have just written the postmodern "Gift of the Magi."

_______________________

Coffee Table: I'd arrange for the coffee table to have a horrible accident, and replace it for your parents before the in-laws arrive. The poor coffee table.

Carolyn Hax: Maybe we can arrange for the coffee table to become that woman's third husband.

_______________________

Regifting: You and your husband volunteer to bring appetizers for the dinner. Then cover the coffee table with a festive cloth and set the appetizers up there. Of course, you'll have to do this in perpetuity. It will be a new holiday tradition.

Carolyn Hax: Bonus points if you wrap the legs.

_______________________

How about a Chanukah story?: My boyfriend and I were at a friend's Chanukah party, surrounded by wonderful fried foods and music and laughing, great party. My boyfriend and I had agreed to exchange gifts for Chanukah, and to me that meant a silly fun gift like the semiautomatic marshmallow shooter I bought him. At the party however, he broke open a diamond tennis bracelet and, with everyone watching, made a big show about putting it on me. It was mortifying-- both because he was so extravagant with the giving and because I had gotten him such a crap present in comparison. We broke up not long later for other reasons... but my friends still tease me about my "Maccabee with the chain."

Carolyn Hax: Horrors don't discriminate, so why should we?

My Xmas list just acquired a semi-automatic marshmallow shooter.

_______________________

Not too much to add...: But I definitely witnessed a shoving/slapping match between two 40-something women (with toddler looking on) over the last of the butter at Walgreen's on Thanksgiving Day. Stacks of margarine, but only the real thing would do, apparently.

Carolyn Hax: It's butter. I totally get it.

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Boston, Mass.: My uncle is somewhat accident prone at the holidays. Three years ago, he slipped down the front stairs and broke his shoulder. Last year, while they were hosting 8 houseguests, he decided to go up on the porch roof to shovel snow and feel through the sky light, breaking two ribs and reinjuring the shoulder. Best part of the story was the stranger who ran into my aunt and mentioned that she used to live on that street and did my aunt hear about the crazy guy who lives on that street who fell through the sky light?

Carolyn Hax: It wasn't making the cut, but then I got to the end.

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On Grandmother gifts...: Several years ago, my grandmother gave my husband a welcome statue with frogs on it. The word "welcome" is written on this very elongated mushroom held sideways by the two frogs. The elongated mushroom looks very much like you would think an elongated mushroom would look like, which is to say, like a certain part of the male anatomy. There are even two smaller mushrooms sprouting out of the base. We all laughed about it, and my husband decided we would keep it, since it was so amusing. So the next year he gets... two more of the exact same statue. And last year, another one of the same statue. We have them all sitting out on our patio. And a few years ago, she gave my 6'5 brother a floral muumuu we're desperately hoping was really intended for someone else. However, it has now become a family tradition to wrap the muumuu up and give it to another male member of the family on Christmas. Makes for some great Christmas pictures.

Carolyn Hax: Kenny just yelled to me, "Breathe, breathe!"

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For your consideration: Smash the pot pipe with a cleaver

Fa la la la la la la la la

Down the toilet with the reefer

Fa la la la la la la la la

Stoners hide from fed'ral agents

Fa la la la la la la la la

All check in as mental patients

Fa la la la la la la la la

Carolyn Hax: Or:

Smash the pot pipe with a cleaver

Fa la la la la la la la la

Down the toilet with the reefer

Fa la la la la la la la la

Fed'ral agents weren't the reason

Fa la la la la la la la la

This is gruyere cheese puff season.

Fa la la la la la la la la

_______________________

Connecticut: My MIL is a police officer. She doesn't work a "beat" anymore, she is assigned to community relations, but she is still required to wear a uniform. We hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year. My MIL didn't want to take the entire day off so she worked in the morning and then showed up at our house in full uniform. Gun? - Check; a thousand keys? check; Radio (on of course)? - Check; Bullet Proof Vest? -Yup, that too. I asked her if she wanted to change, Nope she was fine. I asked if she at least wanted to remove the bullet proof vest to be more comfortable. Nope she was good. What are you gonna do? My son went to school on Monday telling everyone his grandma wore a gun to dinner!

Carolyn Hax: When I hear of one survivor of a tragic exploding roast beef incident in CT, I'll know who and why.

_______________________

If the choice was between margarine and punching somebody,: I'd punch somebody. Margarine is gross.

Carolyn Hax: Exactly. And the child couldn't have learned this lesson too soon.

_______________________

The woman's coat reminded me!: I was just in Latin America and bought my mother a beautiful woven scarf for Xmas. I was just wrapping it last weekend and saw the tag says "table runner" (in Spanish). I'm crossing my fingers she won't notice.

Carolyn Hax: Someone will. Cut the tag (what's she going to do, return it?).

_______________________

A holiday gift by fiat: So in my office, there's this hideous thing called the Hoof. It's the foreleg of a bull, hoof intact, that has been cut and stretched around a wine bottle and stitched back up. Oh, and it has a shoulder strap. It belongs to one of the head honchos, and he likes it to be passed to a new person every year (we come in in batches every October).

The rules of "Hoofing" have changed radically over the past few years. It used to be that it went to the first person in a class to show up. Apparently now the current Hoof-holder nominates the next Hoof-recipient. It also used to be a very silent process. I thought this was still the case, so when I was asked to nominate someone I put together a four-paragraph nomination about the person (whom I had met once previously, but hers was the only name I could remember) that ranges from fantastical to completely ridiculous.

As it turns out, this year there will be a "hoofing" ceremony at the holiday party on Saturday. As in... they are going to read my nomination out loud as they hand off the Hoof to this unknowing nominee. She will get to hear such wonderful things about herself as "In an effort to provide excellent client service, she sleeps once a week; when she does sleep, she sleeps in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, [nominee] successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to [nominee]. She balances, she weaves, she dodges, she frolics, and her bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, [nominee] participates in full-contact origami."

So... I'm thinking for the next holiday chat, you might get a submission from a woman who tells a horrible story about being presented with animal parts at the holiday party in her new office. Sorry about that.

Carolyn Hax: No need to apologize to us, though. Really.

_______________________

X-mas entertainment: We always saved my uncle's gifts for last. Over the years they have included:

1) a duck decoy missing its head 2) an ink drawing of a head of lettuce and some celery, with "salad" written in large font underneath 3) a Christmas ornament made out of a lightbulb painted lavender and with sparkles glued on 4) a stuffed plant -- as in, made of fabric, stuffed with whatever goes in stuffed animals.

For a while we assumed these gifts were expressions of hostility (in particular, the headless duck) but in fact, I think his taste just runs to the extremely odd. Turns out bathroom is tiled with the image of the Statue of Liberty, and the walkway to his house is lined with bowling pins.

Carolyn Hax: The head is at the foot of someone's bed, I hope.

_______________________

Holiday Story: When my husband and I were engaged, she bought me a gift for the first time (I had given her small gifts, like nice candles, when we were dating). I opened it at her house on Christmas morning and it was $1 slipper socks with a demented Santa on them and a (chipped) coffee mug with dried beans in it (presumably for soup). I was gracious, but felt a little slighted, given I was marrying her son. The next Christmas, when we were married, I openned her gift and it was much nicer. My reaction must have been different because she said to me "Oh, I didn't want to waste a good gift on you last year because Bobby was sure to screw the engagement up!"

Carolyn Hax: See, she's just pragmatic.

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Frog Mushroom: Please put one of your extras on eBay. Just checked for one there and no luck! Willing to bid high - Darryl In DC

Carolyn Hax: Must get you two kids together ...

_______________________

Boston, Mass.: The year I was 9 was the apex of my childhood Christmas craze. My family had just moved, and we were dirt poor, my mom working 2 jobs and still barely able to make ends meet.. We put presents sent by relatives out under the tree about a week before Christmas Day, and one present for me was particularly intriguing. It was large and somewhat soft--I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was. It was given by my aunt, a very sweet and practical lady who knew we were in rough shape economically. Finally, a couple of days before Christmas I couldn't stand the suspense and, when my mom was in the shower, I carefully opened the bottom of the wrapping paper. Inside was a 12-pack of toilet paper. Now, we joke that the package was in fact something really cool, and that I turned it into toilet paper by peeking.

Carolyn Hax: It can't end like this ...

_______________________

The Breakfast Stocking: This isn't really a holiday horror story, but just a testiment to my parents' cleverness.

When I was a kid, my family would have big blow out parties on X-mas eve (all the family and extended family would be there). Naturally the adults would get drunk and send the kids off to bed before the raunchy caroling became too raunchy for our ears.

When we (the kids) would wake up on X-mas morning, there would always be a stocking on the pillow next to each of us -- filled with breakfast pastries, cereal, fruit and a little note that basically said Santa wasn't going to stop by the house until noon-ish, and until then, we were to watch TV VERY quietly and feed ourselves from our X-mas stockings. If we woke our parents up, then Santa wouldn't stop by the house.

Needless to say - we were very quiet... and all of our parents and guests had time to nurse their hangover in peace.

It wasn't until I was married, and spent my first X-mas with my husband's family that I realized that the X-mas stocking wasn't supposed to be filled with breakfast foods...

Carolyn Hax: Brilliant.

_______________________

Thank You!: Dearest Boyfriend's Mum,

So pleased that you enjoyed the perfume! I just love the sweater dress you knitted for me. I have to say, that I've never attempted anything so daring before (it's awfully snug!), but your son just loves it. I promise to wear it next time I come to visit so you and your husband needn't imagine ANYTHING anymore!

Thank you again!

PS I think that putting it on the hanger might have stretched it a bit... Should I dry it flat?

Carolyn Hax: PS Your son borrowed it and now it's all stretched out. Should I dry it flat?

_______________________

Hoofer the thief: So, the worst part about the "hoofer" story is that the writer is a plagiarist. Most of that is excerpted from an excellent letter written by a man named Hugh Gallagher...in 1990. He wrote it and submitted it to humor magazines. However, it has been included with an e-mail chain letter claiming that he wrote it as his college application essay for his application to NYU (where he did graduate in 1994--details can be found at http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/blbyol3.htm amount other sites). So the worse part is that the writer didn't even have the guts to admit that it was plagiarized, but tried to pass the humor off as their own.

Carolyn Hax: Ach. We try to catch these, but at least one always slips through. Thanks for the catch.

_______________________

Just happy: Last Christmas was my worst ever. Dad, closest person in my life, suffering at my brother and sister-in-law's dirty house with two screaming kids, decided to unload on me about my boyfriend who did not match his standards and with whom he swore he would have nothing to do until he removed several tattoos. I burst into tears, SIL rolls her eyes, SIL's parents are giddily ignorant, my brother refuses to get in the middle, my dad drives off in the middle of dinner after screaming at me on the front lawn. For the first time in my life, we didn't speak for over a month. Fast forward to now. BF and I are engaged, Dad apologized for being an a--, came to visit our new place in DC, and has asked to spend Christmas with us since he likes the BF-turned-fiance "so damn much." Just goes to show that not all Christmas drama has to stay that way.

And the mushroom frog statues? Thanks for that.

Carolyn Hax: No problem.

That's it for this year. Thanks everybody!

_______________________

Cool present turned to toilet paper: That may well be the most spirited application of quantum mechanics I've ever seen. Even more than Santa's ability to visit all those houses in so little time. Well done!

- A theoretical physicist

Carolyn Hax: Okay, one more.

_______________________

holiday stories: Over Thanksgiving, my mom got drunk and started talking to my husband, at length, about my chest. I don't know what exactly was said; he is still too traumatized to talk about it. Can't wait for Christmas!

Carolyn Hax: Save some for next year!

_______________________

Hoofer - guilty only of quick typing!: No! I'm the Hoofer, and I (really) just condensed the story too much, omitting that I filled in her name on the Hugh Gallagher piece. Sorry - was trying to keep it short for easier reading.

The hoof itself is really the worst part, trust me. I've been staring at it for a year.

Carolyn Hax: Okay, we'll let it go THIS time ... (thanks).

_______________________

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