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Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 4, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, June 4, 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.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

Good news! Carolyn's archives have been updated. Check out the sidebar on Carolyn's archive page to find even more transcripts from past Hax chats.

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Carolyn Hax: Hey everybody, sorry I'm late--I was reading Paul Duggan's series over lunch and got absorbed enough to forget the clock. Horrifying story. Anyway, I'm here.

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Atlanta: Love your chats! My fiance and I are planning a low-key wedding. To both of our surprise, his parents expressed a lot of concern about my family's religion and the possibility of a wedding held in that faith (which is related to his family's religion; FWIW, one of my parents attends services, his parents do not, he and I do not). I know it's defensive, but I can't help but feel personally criticized/rejected by his parents, and that they are making uninformed judgments about my family's (very mainstream) religion. I'm also wary of his parents having veto power on our decisions. To choose a church of his parents' faith was always on the table, but now would feel like we're letting them make decisions for us and endorsing their prejudices. Meanwhile, choosing a third, compromise religion would disappoint the lone religious parent, who couldn't be told that the in-laws just don't like her church. What is the right way to approach this? Vegas?? Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: My first thought is that you and your fiance should sit down and hear his parents out--with your fiance taking the lead, and also making it clear that you were both taken aback. I think it's also important to say that you and your fiance are going to choose the church that suits the two of you, but you want the decision to be a fully informed one, which is why you're asking for details.

Maybe they'll just dig themselves deeper into a hole with you, since that's always the risk with something like this. But since you're already feeling hurt and defensive, you're not likely to come out with dramatically worse feelings than you already have, especially since face-to-face conversations send to force people into being more agreeable in their choices of words. For these reasons, I think talking it out presents a fairly low risk, as long as you go into it with a smile and a sincere desire to understand your future in-laws.

On the other hand, the risk that your already hard feelings will grow and fester is pretty high, especially since you're already assuming a punitive/defensive posture over the church issue.

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Emeryville, CA : Hi Carolyn. My 22-year-old son has decided to go to bartending school and get licensed to tend bar to earn money over the summer and when he gets back to school. His grandfather was an alcoholic, and I know for a fact my son drank excessively in college, which affected his grades. Thinking about him spending his days and nights around alcohol panics me but I don't think there's anything I can do to change his mind about this. Where do I go from here?

Carolyn Hax: Work hard at keeping your fears and judgments out of your relationship with your son, and go to Al-anon. Pat answer, I'm afraid, but this delicate line you need to walk is one that a lot of people have walked before, so please avail yourself of their collective wisdom.

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Carolyn Hax: I should clarify that your son may well not have a problem with alcohol. While the heavy collegiate partying and the alcoholic ancestor do put him at higher risk, they don't guarantee trouble, even up against a backdrop of liquor bottles. He may just be into bartending because the money's good, and for all you know, the daily display of sloppy drunks may put him off benders for good. Al-anon, in this case, will be about spotting warning signs and respecting boundaries.

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Practicalities of getting counseling: Carolyn,

You frequently advise counseling to people and to couples, and I'm sure it's incredibly helpful. My question is, how do you go when you work full time? I can't imagine taking several hours off on a a regularly scheduled, weekly basis--I'm factoring in an hour-long appointment and transport time. Then if we needed to go as a couple, both being full-time workers, coordinating that sounds even harder.

(This is assuming no insurance issues, though I think many of us have that challenge too.)

Practical ideas?

Carolyn Hax: Many therapists anticipate this question by offering evening and weekend appointments. Some also will work with you over the phone, but I would advise that either as a last resort or as a later step, once you've established a rapport with your therapist.

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Anonymous: My girlfriend of two years wants us to go to counseling together. I think that would be appropriate if we were planning a future together, which we aren't at this point, and a waste of time and money otherwise. I guess I believe if she isn't satisfied with our relationship at this point, it will only get worse from here. She has not issued any ultimatums, but I still feel like if I refuse to go, it'll be the same as saying I've checked out of our relationship. Do you think there's any way I can refuse to go without having to break up with her?

Carolyn Hax: What's the harm in going once? She obviously cares about this, and you seem to care about her, so see what it's about--then take a stand, if you still feel you need to. That way, it'll be an informed stand, instead of just an assumption that whatever is wrong can't or won't be fixed.

For what it's worth, I tend to agree in theory that if she's unhappy now with who you are, then the signs for the future aren't good. However, there's always the possibility that you both like each other in necessary and fundamental ways, but you both could use a 101 course in communicating. Show up for one session, and open yourself to the possibility of enlightenment. You'll either be pleasantly surprised or that much closer to seeing that this relationship isn't going to work.

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Yet Another Wedding Question: My partner of 14 years and I are planning a small civil union ceremony in our living room for this summer. About 25 people are invited, and the remainder of our family and friends will receive an announcement in the mail.

Here's the issue: I am estranged from my father, and have been for almost 20 years now. This is my choice, not his, and I have good and valid reasons for it. He is obviously not invited to the ceremony, but I don't know if I should send him an announcement.

We see him at family functions once or twice a year and are cordial. We also send him a Christmas card, mostly so he can get a picture of his grand child every year.

I feel bad that he will not be here, because I know that he would want to be. On the other hand, there is no question that he cannot be invited.

I guess I just don't want to rub his face in it. I don't know what to do.

Any input?

Carolyn Hax: If you were in his shoes, which would hurt you more--hearing of your son's union by way of a mailed announcement, or via grapevine? I tend to think the latter, but you need to try to think as your father would.

There's also a third way, reaching out to tell him personally. Phone, in person, handwritten letter--any of them would indicate more respect for his place in your life than a printed card would.

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Re: practicality of counseling: I found a counselor within walking distance of my office and used my lunch time for the appointment (though sometimes it was a late or early lunch).

Also, this has been raised before but may be helpful again: many workplaces offer Employee Assistance Plans that may cover the initial counseling sessions. Mine covered 5 sessions.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.

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Practical Counseling: Group practices usually have one or two evening/weekend therapists. Contacting a counseling center may save you some time, rather than tracking down individual therapists in hopes of finding compatible schedules.

Carolyn Hax: another good one, thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi, there. Love your chats. I'm divorced over two years, found myself again, and out there dating. After a lot of dead ends, I've met someone with whom I/we really connect. He's just out of his marriage - maybe 6 months separated after 15 years of marriage. I know he likes me (a lot), but he also says he's not looking for an LTR. FWIW, I'm not either, though eventually I do hope to find a partner, and if I don;t I'll still be fine enough. But I don;t want to be rebound girl, or casual date him as he goes to find himself in the post-marriage dating thicket. What to do? Hang on in the unknown? Get out, while I'm still ahead? Something else? It seems like a hopeless scenario for something more serious, but also don't want to give up the best thing I've had in a long while.

Carolyn Hax: Given where he is in the process and what he's been saying to you, you have to expect that he'll either date you exclusively and then move on, or date you while dating others. If you don't think you can handle either of these, then you need to adjust your relationship with him accordingly--either by breaking up, or backing off to a point that allows you to branch out in your own life while still seeing him.

If on the other hand you're prepared to feel like roadkill, if that's the chance you have to take to see where this is going, then take the chance and see where this is going. You've recovered from a divorce, so you can recover from this--the question is whether he's worth it. (Romanticizing not recommended.)

A good way to keep it all straight while you're thinking about it is to think less of how he feels about you, and more of how you feel about you. Rebounds happen. Bad timing happens. Nobody ever wants to be somebody's rebound--some people are just okay with (and clear-eyed about) taking a chance.

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Feeling Lost in Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn, Lately, I have been feeling lost and frustrated. I have a job, and I feel lucky to have one at all, but I get bored with work very easily. Often times, there is not much for me to do. I have been frustrated with my living situation. I am frustrated with my family and friends. I feel I have been depending on one friend too much to hang out or talk or whatever, and am finding myself wondering if she is annoyed with me and waiting too much for her to do things. I think my problem is low self esteem. What can I do to make myself more confident and less concerned with what others are doing and more concerned about how to make myself happy?

Carolyn Hax: I think your problem is a lack of purpose (which can certainly drag down your self-image). When you're gone, how do you want to be remembered? What kind of imprint do you want to leave?

You're going to think I'm completely off my nut (and you'll think right), but I'm going to suggest you read a children's book called "Miss Rumphius" by Barbara Cooney. Why read 300 pages of self-help when you can get the gist of it in about 20, with pictures.

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Mean Girls, McLean : Hi Carolyn,

There is a Queen Bee Mom in our neighborhood. You know the type -- organizes all neighborhood events, always there for all of the kids, has all the latest on school, real estate and book club news. She is nice and performs a lot of real service for the neighborhood, but if you cross her, well, you are done for socially. The thing is, I've recently realized that she keeps an A and B list for invitations to events. I am on the B list. We are all in our 40s and my life is very full, so I know I should just be a grown up and let this go. But still, it bothers me -- I feel hurt -- and I don't really know how to deal with it. Thanks

Carolyn Hax: Well, she wouldn't be on your A list, either. There's that.

I realize the difference is that people care, on some level, about her A list and probably don't dedicate much thought or angst to yours, but still--most of the concern about her A list is for the wrong reasons. She's appreciated, ultimately, for her power, not for her heart or intelligence or humor or the other things people tend to choke up about when they talk about those they love. No one gets teary at the part of the speech where they talk about the way someone owned the neighborhood social scene. They just don't.

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Arlington, VA: I know we covered this topic before, but I've still never received a satisfactory answer. We know two couples who are invited to several parties each year, yet they've never once hosted a party or in any other way reciprocated to me or any of my other friends who invite them. I told my wife that we shouldn't bother with them anymore - we have several other friends who understand basic etiquette (I think my 5-year-old understands etiquette better than these couples). My wife insists that they're very nice people and that we don't want to offend anyone. I responded that I'm offended when someone thinks they can mooch off of other people indefinitely. My question is to the rest of your audience: If you are an offender of this type of etiquette breach, please tell me why? Why can't you find some way to reciprocate from the dozens of invitations you've received from friends (a casual dinner at your home, a dinner at a restaurant, etc.)?

Carolyn Hax: Here's a scenario for you: Let's say they aren't in a position to host at the moment--small or torn-up or just somehow embarrassing home; no enough money to pick up the tab for others unless it's fast food; totally overwhelmed by life for some reason (sick, or caring for a sick relative or child, tough stretch at work, whatever). Say they just don't want to entertain right now.

Now let's say their friends keep inviting them out or inviting them over, even though they're way behind on reciprocating. Do they say no to your parties and dinner invitations? Presumably you want them there, or you wouldn't have asked--so is it the friendly thing to say yes, or the friendly thing to say no?

This isn't an excuse, necessarily--they should do something for others eventually, or at least acknowledge and explain their deadbeatedness in some way--but I offer this scenario to show that it isn't as black-and-white, "These people have no manners," as you say. Would you have them say to your invitations, "I'm afraid I cant' reciprocate, do you still want me there?"

Since you have parties because you presumably enjoy having parties, and since your parties are about companionship and not a quid pro quo, presumably, I would suggest trying out the view through your wife's eyes: Do you enjoy these two couples enough to want them around, just for the sake of it? It takes the emotion out of the issue, reduces it to a neat yes/no question.

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What if You're the Queen Bee?: I'm not the queen bee mom, but I might be a younger version of her. I have a lot of friends, many of my friends know each other through me, I generally take the lead in planning stuff, and my friends call me the "cruise director." How do I know if I'm just a connecter/social butterfly, vs. a dreaded queen bee?

Carolyn Hax: Don't be punitive, and don't exclude.

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Wedding Invitation Limitations: My fiance and I sent out save the dates for our end summer wedding several months ago. We are in the process of sending out the actual invitations now. My question is, we sent out save the dates to several people, including elderly family members who we knew would not be able to attend. In order to cut down the costs on our wedding invitations, we ordered fewer. The problem is now we will be cutting it close in the number of invites we need to send out. Is it okay to skip on sending the actual invites to people who received save the dates, but we know won't be able to attend the wedding?

Carolyn Hax: Not sure I can put my finger on it, but this doesn't sound like a good way to balance the budget. First, there's the possibility that an elderly family member would cherish the actual invitation; not going means the formal invitation is all they'd have. Then there's the risk of making someone who isn't physically up to traveling feel even more marginalized than s/he already does.

If you have to cut a few invitations out, I'd be more inclined to skip a close but non-sentimental/non-scrapbooking--or, even better, an eco-inclined--buddy of either you or your fiance, with his or her permission, of course.

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Detroit, Mich: Do all dinner invites come on the condition of reciprocation? Is bringing a nice bottle of wine or other gift reciprocation enough for the conditional invite sender from earlier?

Carolyn Hax: Depends on your host, apparently. I think bringing something for the host is sufficient proof that you aren't an ingrate, as is sending a thank-you note. But that's just my take.

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Boston, MA: Hi Carolyn, Love the chat and columns. You give really useful and insightful advice, which is why I'm here. Is there any way to help someone who has angrily given up on his life? It's like flipping a switch- he goes from enjoying his circumstances to seeing everything as terrible and hopeless. Eventually it goes back again, but usually not until some bridges have been burnt. I generally take the brunt of it (and yes, I am in therapy trying to work out why I have so much trouble detaching or extricating myself from a potentially emotionally abusive situation), so I'm hesitant to speak up unless I think it could have some actual impact. He has no health insurance and refuses to seek out free therapy options. Is there anything I can do to redirect the downward spiral of self destruction?

Carolyn Hax: Yours? You're doing it. If your therapist is good, then you'll make progress there, and you're asking yourself good questions.

If you mean his downward spiral of self-destruction, then you can recognize how little you can do to help someone who won't help himself. When he refuses to get help or make productive changes, then you're down to only two choices: enable him, or don't enable him.

Letting him take his crap out on you is enabling. Letting him know you won't stand for that, but will be there to support him when he starts taking concrete steps to get well, is support without enabling.

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Hosting and Being "Totally Overwhelmed": And remember, that what is not at all overwhelming for you may be sufficiently overwhelming for someone else such that they feel unable to host. My job, home, family, etc. are all (knock on wood) basically fine, but I find maintaining all of them usually consumes most of my energy. I'm not sure how my friends with jobs and kids manage to host elegant parties, but they do; I don't. I hope to reciprocate . . . in 5 or 6 years.

Carolyn Hax: Right. And if people are okay with your being this way, they should keep inviting you, and if they're not okay with it, then they shouldn't invite you. Self-resolving, I think. Thanks.

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Regarding therapy: As a therapist, I'd like to respond to the person without time for therapy. First of all, therapists often keep early morning or evening and sometimes weekend hours to be accomodating. Second of all, it's also important to prioritize. This is your life - if you are committed to it, you need to make time to make it work. If you don't have time to work on your relationship, that's a concern right there. Think how much time you spend watching TV or reading the newspaper in a week. You should have at least an hour or two to dedicate to helping your life work.

Carolyn Hax: Well said, thanks.

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DC: I'm in my mid-30s, have had baby fever since getting married last year and my husband wants to wait. We've been together for over a decade, have stable jobs and a great relationship. I'm confused as to what to do next and my clock just keeps ticking away. Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: This is the other side (sort of) to the May 18 column.

Have you spelled it out for him: "I hear you saying you want to wait, but if we wait, I might not be able to have children. Is this a risk you're aware of and willing to take?"

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washingtonpost.com: Marriage ultimatum came out of the blue -- or did it?, Carolyn Hax, The Washington Post, May 18, 2010

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At some point, you realize not to waste precious energy on stuff like that: Why do people waste precious energy hating "moocher deadbeats"? If you keep inviting them and creating more hate inside your body every time you invite them (knowing they haven't 'reciprocated')-- Whose fault is your anguish? Doc, it hurts every time I hit my head against the wall! Just stop inviting them if you think you've spent more money on them than their freindship is worth to you.

Carolyn Hax: I get what you're saying, but the poster's wife wants to keep including them.

That does lead to an answer similar to the "Stop banging your head against the wall" solution, though: Invite them for the pleasure they bring your wife.

Rationalizing is usually bad, but it does play a useful if narrow role in day-to-day contentment-management strategy.

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Wedding invitations: If you have a problem with the number of wedding invitations that you ordered, you should talk to the closest friends that you know will be there to support you and ones that you communicate with on a frequent basis and invite them by phone or in person and explain that you ordered too few invitations and so you hope they don't mind getting a verbal invitation. When I got married, I wondered why I had spent the money on the invitations for the people that I hand delivered invitations to because I saw them regularly and who RSVP'ed verbally.

Carolyn Hax: Where I was going, but with added detail. Thanks.

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Baltimoron: Carolyn HELP ME! This is going to sound like a stupid question but how does one know if one is in love? The gaga feeling seems missing some of the time BUT the last 10 years of my relationship history has been fraught with seemingly emotionally unavailable people. So, in absence of the emotional roller coaster, I feel like something is missing. Yes, I know it's the drama aspect, but I can't seem to get past feeling like my new relationship is lacking. Aiiieeee!

Carolyn Hax: Are you always happy to see the person? Are you happier in the person's company than you are in the company of others? Are you as comfortable with yourself in this person's presence as you are when you're alone? If you imagine this person suddenly weren't in your life, does that make you sad in a way that isn't imaginary?

"Yes" to these would suggest strong feelings. The gaga feeling is often more about suspense than any real attachment.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn,

I've tried to ask this question before, but you never posted. But I'm really curious on what your thoughts are about dating outside of your class. Can class-differences (income, education, upbringing)be a significant obstacle in an otherwise healthy relationship?

Carolyn Hax: Two mature adults who are emotional and intellectual equals, and who have shared values, have the best chance of anyone of creating a union that lasts. Any "class" differences that cause problems between a couple are just going to be manifestations of mismatched maturity (if Upper is ashamed of Lower, or if Lower is ashamed of self), intellect or values.

Those are my thoughts.

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A.: Hi Carolyn,

Just received an email from a close friend asking to be discharged from our friendship. She said she regrets it very deeply, but she has a child with terrible health problems that consumes most of her time and emotional energy, and she has begun to feel like all she does is take from her friends friends without giving anything back. She would rather end our friendship than feel guilty about not being able to return my efforts. To be honest, I have been frustrated about our friendship, which has felt uneven for a long time. I'm not sure what to say to her. Please help?

Carolyn Hax: Well, you either feel up to being on the giving end of the friendship without any foreseeable return from her except her company (and maybe the sense of doing a selfless thing), or you don't--be it because you don't enjoy her company that much, or you're pretty drained yourself for your own reasons, or you reject her premise and believe her take-take-take position isn't defensible, sick kid or no.

Either way, I think you need to be true to your feelings on this one. If you don't see yourself getting past the frustration, then accept her gracious exit; and if this acknowledgment of guilt on her part wipes your frustration slate clean, then respond with genuine absolution and say you're there for her with no expectation of being paid back.

Either way, she seems to know what she wants, and she's ready to be honest about it.

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20036: I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that I am a relationship score keeper. First example: my partner's work schedule has led him to ask me to take on the majority of household duties, animal care, etc. I have a less demanding job than he does, but always start to think that because of these additional duties at home, I don't have the option to work late, take on extra assignments, etc. and bitterness ensues. Second example: I am getting married, and will have one attendant, my best friend. I helped her out in a big way when she was planning her wedding, but now that the roles are reversed, she has a business to run and young children to care for, and therefore little time or energy to spend with me. So I have recognized my problem...what next? I know I have it good compared to many, so how to break the cycle of wanting relationships to be exactly 50/50?

Carolyn Hax: These two examples are completely different things.

The second one is just, [shneesh] happen, the consequence of a different phase of life.

The first is a serious issue involving fairness, partnership and communication. You need to say, "By agreeing to take on the majority of house and pet care, I realize now I've limited myself in ways that are starting to chafe." And then you propose a new arrangement: You hire someone to care for house and pet X times a week to free you to reach for more professionally.

Bonus: If your partner reacts badly to your asserting your career needs, then you won't have to worry any more about your friend's contributions to your wedding.

I say it facetiously, but it's serious business for you: Scorekeeping is what people tend to do when they can't/don't stand up for themselves in a more straightforward way. You have a chance to be straightforward with your partner here, and if you can't bring yourself to do it--if you can't set limits and hold them--then the resulting bitterness and put-upon feelings will be largely your responsibility.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carolyn. To get to the heart of the issue, I am sickenenly un-motivated. In every area. I can't wake up on time, I can't clean up my place, I can't make myself exercise, I can't start on things at home or work. I don't think I'm depressed because I don't really feel depressed? I still talk to friends and do things and go places. But this has kind of been a life-long thing that I've wrestled with and never really gotten a handle on. Sometimes I'll break out briefly, but I always go back to being, well, really lazy. How can I just suck it up and DO the things I need to do when I need to do it? This really causes me so much unnecessary stress, especially work-wise...

Carolyn Hax: This will probably be a long exploratory expedition, to find the root of your inertia, but I would suggest you start with a full physical, with blood work, and explain to your doctor that lethargy has been your way of life for as long as you can remember.

If that checkup rules out physical causes, then move onto psychological screening. If you decide you'd like to try therapy, make it clear that your goals are behavioral more than emotional, if it is in fact the case that your mood is okay but your lack of productivity isn't.

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Los Angeles, CA: Regarding A:

This is a major 'bang head on keyboard' for me. A child with terrible health problems that are all-consuming has to take priority. If it were me, I'd make a pot of spagetti, and a nice basket of pretty paper plates, and matching plasticware and a nice note. Maybe the mom is depressed and overwhelmed and needs friends who aren't demanding. I encourage LW to support from a distance ... it's not about you.

Carolyn Hax: I agree, but this will only work if LW wants to be this friend, and has this kind of friendship inside. Not everyone does, hence my answer. The struggling mother doesn't need to have someone around whose heart isn't in it. That's just more work for her.

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One-Sided Friend: I am the mother of a child with terrible health problems that take up most of my emotional energy. I think the poster's friend was, as you said, ready to be honest about what she couldn't give, but I think maybe you should have pushed the OP to keep trying with a 'no strings attached' caveat. The loneliness and frustration of having a sick child can't be helped by cleaning house of associations with others, that's a recipe for permanent despair. The friend with the sick child is probably depressed and this is a big red flag that she is trying to cut ties. Also, if the OP knew about the child's health situation and still indulged in feeling resentful, she needs to grow up and count her blessings.

Carolyn Hax: Amen. Thanks.

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Retirement, USA?: Carolyn,

My husband and I are both 62. He is retired, I work full time. This is a recent (second) marriage for us both, and he was already retired when our relationship began.

I would dearly love to quit working, but I don't feel that we are financially secure enough for me to do so. My husband thinks we have enough for both of us to retire. We have been very thorough and somewhat conservative in crunching all the numbers and projecting our future expenses. We don't disagree on the numbers, just our degree of comfort vs. anxiety about what they mean.

Here's the real sticking point: I would love for my husband to go back to work. (The feasibility of this, given his age, the economy, etc. is a separate issue, of course!) My thinking is instead of him living the easy life while I work for the next five+ years, why can't we both suck it up, work for maybe 2-3 years, and then retire together? It feels unfair to me that I should be the only one bringing in an income. However, my husband feels - and I do see his point - that I do not NEED to be working, that I can afford to retire, that we have enough money, and therefore he shouldn't have to go back to work just because I have irrational anxieties about money. (He doesn't put it quite that way, but that's the gist of it.)

So, what do you think - my issues, my problem? Should he have to do something he thinks is totally unnecessary and undesirable just to mollify me? I'm very torn - please help!

Carolyn Hax: I see your point, but--if I were retired and someone wanted to march me back to work to satisfy his/her need for security beyond what I truly believed was necessary, then I'd be really peeved.

You met him when he was already retired. You've gone through the numbers together and he's been what you would call conservative. Your resenting him for "living the easy life" is terribly unfair.

You're either going to have to own your decision--and by all means, make some kind of agreement where all your income goes into your personal account--or find some kind of compromise, where you cut back to part-time, and/or your husband agrees to pamper you a bit as you finish this last bit of earning.

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Queen Bee Hater: What does it mean if "you are done for socially" if you cross this woman? She talks behind your back to the other moms? Do you really want to be acquainted with those who would listen to her? Sounds very high schoolish to me. One woman can hold that much power only if you let her.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, you can be "done for" with someone like this just by being stricken from the guest list. Not a mean word needs to be said, but you find yourself cut off from the main access point to this particular community.

It doesn't change the advice--"Say, 'Oh, well,' and work on developing your own, you-friendly network"--but it can feel strange to be excluded where you once were included.

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Carolyn Hax: That's it for today. Thanks for coming, and have a great weekend.

Next week's chat will be Thursday at noon, instead of the usual Friday, to accommodate another of my kids' school functions. We'll make it the wedding chat we talked about a few weeks ago--maybe not the whole thing, but at least part.

Oh, and look for update(s) on www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax ...

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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.

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

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