washingtonpost.com
Carolyn Hax Live: All about Moms, Too-generous gift givers?, Older drivers, Anti-wedding dress brides, Mourning rites, 'When Harry Met Sally,' and more

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 3, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, December 3, 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: Hi everybody. The problems with my column online seem to be getting better, but if there's another flareup of the absent/misdated column syndrome, you can find it on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax

Also, the Hootenanny links are up and running for anyone who'd like to post a Horror early. It's the first result when you search "hax."

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Carolyn Hax: ... on The Post's home page, I should say. Thanks.

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Anonymous: Hi Carolyn,

A good friend of mine has decided not to tell his new girlfriend that he and I used to date because he thinks it'll make her unnecessarily uncomfortable around me. I see his point, but the little lies this requires hurt my feelings, as does the fact that (apparently) I can be so easily written out of his history. It's not like it's a huge deal (we didn't last very long and it was clear it was not going anywhere from the beginning), but it's just the principle. Am I being crazy?

Carolyn Hax: A little, but only because your primary concern seems to be your feelings, when the big flashy red issue is that he's telling lies--not to mention recruiting you to support them by telling lies of your own. The correct response to his request (and I hope you know how suspicious I am of the idea that there's a lone "correct" response to any situation) is to tell him where to stick his moronic lie, and that you won't cover for him if it ever comes up.

The guy also has overcooked pasta where his spine should be, which I also believe is a bigger deal here than your feelings.

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Carolyn Hax: Why why why do people do this?

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New York, NY: Hi- Where's a good place to go when you need some time to think about things alone? Where do you go? Other than one's home, which can be a less than ideal spot with noisy roommates? Thanks for the time.

Carolyn Hax: I might not be the one to ask, because I can shut people out and therefore find solitude just about anywhere, but I can highly recommend getting outside and just moving. When you're walking it's just you. Good luck.

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Vienna (not the one in Virginia): I was just wondering when the annual holiday chat will be this year? Reading it is one of my holiday traditions!

washingtonpost.com: Next Friday!

Carolyn Hax: The gag gift that keeps on gagging.

Unless someone objects, I might harvest a few of the "bad gift" comments from Nov. ... uh, 19? and post them to the Hoot. I was weeping as I read the outtakes.

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Boston, MA: For the woman in today's column, does it help to know you aren't alone? I am more or less in your shoes: estranged from my extended family with very, very strained relationships with my parents and siblings.

I came to the realization a long time ago that it better for me and them if we didn't even pretend to celebrate holidays and birthdays as one big family.

It was the right decision but not an easy one. I sometimes feel very down on certain milestones like my birthday. Friends are great about taking me out but that doesn't stop the cascade of emotions.

My advice to is: let it happen. Give your emotions time to take control. The more you try to repress them the more difficult it will be. I normally give myself a time limit though then go treat myself to a nice lunch and a movie.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for this. I agree specifically with two things you said, one of them direct and one implied: that it's best to let it out when the bad times hit, and it's also good to make a conscious decision to be finished crying and to go feel better. We spend so much time here talking about the ways people manipulate others that we probably don't spend enough time on the fact that we can also manipulate our own feelings, and often for the good.

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Biloxi, MS: My girlfriend, in her late twenties, visits her family out of state during the holidays. When she goes to visit her family, her dad wants her to stay at his home. However, he smokes cigarettes in the house. If she tells him that she does not want her to stay with him, then he will get offended. What is the best way to handle the situation - either stay with him only on the condition that he not smoke in the house, or just decline the offer, knowing it will hurt his feelings?

Carolyn Hax: Either one is fine, because either one would indicate that she doesn't have puppet strings on her wrists for daddy to use when he wants something out of her. Every guilt trip comes with a clearly marked, unlocked exit door. It's called "no." She either says it or she's the one choosing not to. She's too old to blame her dad.

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Columbus, OH: I have a gentleman friend who I enjoy going to classical music concerts with. We (in our 70s--me, early and him late) enjoy talking and the music and I really enjoy it. But, his driving is not what it use to be. He will admit his reflexes are slowing down. The idea of my driving will not go over, as ''he is a real gentleman who waits on a woman''. He has gone thru red lights and stop signs and so often I have to yell ''stop!''. He just does not register that they are there. I hate to give up the concerts, and the company, but, I must do this for my own saftey. How do I tell him? What do I say? I hate to hurt him, yet I do not want to be in the accident that is bound to happen someday.

Carolyn Hax: This is smokin' daddy all over again.

"You are indeed a real gentleman. And I hope you'll understand that being a gentleman now means you need to stop getting behind the wheel--for your safety, for mine and for the safety of other drivers."

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Charlotte: My 22-year-old cousin is living with me while she completes an internship in my area. She hopes to be hired at the end of the year. But she dresses...kinda slutty. Picture Britney Spears in "Baby One More Time" and you have a pretty clear picture of her daily office wear: knee socks paired with plaid miniskirts and tops that are way tight and way low cut. My other roommate calls it "12-year-old sexpot."

I offered to take Cousin shopping, explaining how I knew it could be hard to amass a "grown-up" wardrobe. I held up a series of button-downs and tailored pants at H&M, but she didn't buy any of them (she did, however, buy a pair of thigh-high boots).

Am I absolved now? Or do I come out and just say, "Honey, you look like a sleaze?"

Carolyn Hax: No, but you can say, "I think your clothes are too sexy for an office and they might be working against you."

That's the answer to the second question. As to whether you're absolved, that's up to you. You're under no obligation to spell out your point in red crayon, and I could argue that it's not your business--but I could also argue that your cousin would be in your debt if you did make the extra effort. And that she'd have bigger problems than prodtruding parts if her response to your concern was to get defensive.

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Re: Biloxi: Perhaps I am missing something, but I don't get the reference to "puppet strings," or the suggestion that the father is trying to "get something" out of the daughter by asking her to come stay with him. I understand she doesn't want to be around the cigarette smoke, and so can opt out, and realize that his hurt feelings are his own problem, because it's not a slam on her part, it's all just about the smoke; but I don't get asking him not to smoke in his own house (as much as I dislike cigarette smoke myself), and I also don't get the part where he is attempting to be a puppet master, just by asking - or even by being hurt if she says no. Unfair, perhaps, but not malevolent.

Carolyn Hax: The letter said "he will get offended." Really? Personal offense because his kid doesn't want to breathe smoke for extended periods of time?

Innocent hurt feelings are when you say, "I'm sad that you won't stay with me, because I want to spend as much time with you as I can while you're here, but they're your lungs and I understand." As you said yourself, it's not a slam, it's just about the smoke. Noxious pressure is when you convey that you will be personally wounded if someone makes a reasonable choice against a three-day headache. That's taking it as a slam, even when it's blatantly just about the smoke.

If the dad weren't jerking her around via guilt, the question would never have been posed.

As for the request not to smoke in his own home, it would be out of line if Daddy had been receptive to her staying in a hotel or friend's couch or whatever--but once he started applying pressure for her to stay with him, then he opened the door to request that he not smoke while she's there.

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Midwest: Hi Carolyn, looking forward to the holiday chat as always! :) I guess I have a good problem - my boyfriend's grandparents treat me like an extra grandchild, and buy me a lot of presents for Christmas. They have actually complained that I do not have enough expensive items on my wishlist (it's mostly books and CDs). In my family we have always given each other a few small gifts for the holidays and I'm uncomfortable putting pricey items on the list. But on the other hand, anytime I mention this problem to someone else, they see it as a free ride I should jump on. What do I do??

Carolyn Hax: Find higher quality someone elses with whom you can talk about problems. Bleah.

This couple quite possibly values you -because- you don't see them as a free ride. Keep your wish list the way it is, and if they ask you again to put more expensive things on it, think about where you'd donate a big lump of money if you had one (non-political to be safe), and tell them it would mean a lot to you to make a gift there.

A bit holier than thou, sure, but you seem genuinely not to want more than you're getting, and they seem genuinely to want to give more, so it sounds like a missed opportunity not to steer the goodwill to someone who would deeply appreciate it.

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Gentleman friend and driving: If he won't listen to you, does he have family in the area. Someone has to step in.

I had to take away my father's keys for a while and he was -angry-. Not to sound too pompous, but I couldn't have lived with myself if I'd done nothing and he'd hurt someone.

Carolyn Hax: Holier than thou, pompous ... anyone have a "sanctimonious" to lend, to round things out?

I don't think saying that makes you pompous. It really does come to that, where you have to ask whether you can live with yourself if an impaired or failing driver hurts someone after you decided that interceding would hurt his or her feelings.

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DC: Re: sexily dressed cousin- I think you should say something to her. There is a girl in my office who is very smart and competent but for some reason dresses super sexily in the office. Extremely low cut tops, skin tight mini skirts, and spike heels. This has held her back from other opportunities and she's kind of an office joke. I only know her by sight so it's not really my place to say anything to her, but I feel badly for her and wish she had a woman in her life who had a clue and would share said clue with her.

Carolyn Hax: Maybe said woman has, and the clue was returned unopened. You never know.

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Smoking is legal in this country.: Just sayin'.

Carolyn Hax: What does that have to do with anything?

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Atlanta: My daughter showed up for Thanksgiving dinner at my house, six months pregnant. She had not breathed a word of it before, even though she and I talk several times a week. She is 31 with a lovely husband and a good career, so I would have been nothing short of thrilled to share in the joy of expecting my first grandchild. Three months' silence I would have understood, but my feelings are terribly hurt that she kept it secret almost till the end. Am I being too sensitive here? And how do I handle the fact that we apparently aren't as close as I believed we were?

Carolyn Hax: On that subject, what did you and she say to each other in response to her news? Did she say why she didn't tell, and/or did you ask why she didn't? Did you say your feelings were hurt?

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Georgetown: My girlfriend wants me to go home with her (to Massachusetts) for Christmas this year. We've been dating for a while and this is clearly a very big deal to her, partly because her two sisters have had their SOs there for the past few Christmases (but one is a husband/father and the other is Jewish).

I don't hold it against her that she doesn't want to feel left out, but I had my own holiday plans involving a brief visit to my own family and a holiday cocktail party with friends that has become tradition for me. She is invited to both, of course, but she can't because she's committed to going home. We have been fighting about this, there have been tears, and I am not yet ready to tell her with finality that I will not go to Mass. for Christmas.

Please split the baby for us, Ms. Solomon.

Carolyn Hax: No pressure!

The way you're talking about this, it's almost as if you're painting all the way around the issue. The way you present it, she wants you to join her because she'd rather have a date than walk into her family Christmas alone--and you also regard the other Christmas dates (the sisters' SOs) as having either no choice (the husb) and no better choice (the Jewish boyfriend). And, you don't want to be a date just to make her feel better when it would cost you time with family and friends that really matters to you.

In the circle you've painted around so carefully, you have your feelings for each other. Isn't it possible that your girlfriend feels strongly enough for you now that her holiday doesn't feel right if you're both still going your separate ways? And that she's seeing you as her mate, which means that your being together is primary and that where you actually are is secondary?

You are clearly not feeling this way. Your holiday ties are primary, and it would be nice to have her with you but that is secondary. If that's the way she feels, too, then you're fine--you just need to make it clear that you see the trip to Mass. as being a date to a party, vs. being essential to the celebration, and you'd rather remain where you'd be essential to the celebration.

But if her feeling have in fact grown to the point where she sees you as essential (and the fighting and tears suggest they have), then that's going to require a more thorough answer from you. If you're not ready to give up the things that are meaningful to you in order to experience something meaningful to her--or, even better, to create something meaningful to you both--then that's your prerogative. You feel what you feel and it would be wrong to profess or mislead her into believing otherwise.

However, you need to let her know where you stand. And, by extension, where she does. And if she's fighting you on this using technicalities, and avoiding saying outright that she feels more invested in the relationship than you are, then she needs to come clean, too.

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Thumpety thump thump!: This may belong in the Hoot, but just had to share:

Just walked past a holiday crafts fair downtown and saw 2 security guards helping the 8' Frosty the Snowman mascot down the sidewalk. I assume there's a wardrobe malfunction, but with Frosty's head lolling around and the 2 officers it looks like Frosty is being arrested for public drunkenness. Look at Frosty go!

Carolyn Hax: I'd save this for next week, but then we'd lose our chance at video. Anyone downtown and properly cam-equipped?

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Mourning rites?: Carolyn, My husband's mother died suddenly last spring and this is the family's first Xmas without her; I keep asking what he wants to do -- a special ritual; attend church; avoid parties; go to parties; light a memorial candle; go over photographs; try to get extended family together; etc. But he does not want to do anything -- no special ceremony, no particular remembrance, nothing. Should I force the issue? I'm afraid he'll regret it if he treats it like any other holiday season.

Carolyn Hax: You've already been forcing the issue, it seems. Trust him to know his own heart and let it be.

If the holiday passes without his doing something special and he later regrets it, just tell him it's okay, he wasn't ready then, but since he's ready now, you'll go with him to do the special ritual/attend church/light a candle/whatever he prefers. It doesn't matter whether it's Dec. 25 or Feb. 17 or June 4.

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Arlington, VA: Atlanta's pregnant daughter might feel VERY close to her mom. But she might have been saving this up as the BIG surprise, wanting to show her mother in person! Obviously it didn't turn out as the great moment she planned, but Mom shouldn't get locked into seeing it as a sign that they aren't close. That's just hanging onto hurt. Some people are really into surprises and dramatic moments. Mom's hurt reaction might be equally disappointing to daughter.

Carolyn Hax: This possibility is why I want to know what transpired between them after she arrived. certainly if she wanted to make it a big surprise, she would have said as much to her mother: "I thought of saying something a hundred times on the phone, but I wanted to see your face."

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Atlanta: Thank you for addressing my question!

The hurt did not set in fully until after she had returned to her home in New York. At the time, there were a flurry of shocked reactions and shrieking (no one else in the family knew, either). She seemed very happy and blushing about it. Later, when we talked, I did not confront her about not finding out earlier, I just reiterated that I wanted to be involved from now on. I have said things like, "I still can't believe you never mentioned it!" and she just replies by laughing - we keep it very light.

Carolyn Hax: Oh, I hadn't seen this when I posted the previous comment.

I'm afraid that "we keep it very light" is even more persuasive proof than the withheld pregnancy that you're not as close as you thought. It pains me to think this, much less type it. You do seem to have a warm and affectionate relationship, but close is when you share your deeper feelings. For example, she: "I thought of telling you, of course, but I knew you and the rest of the fam would be excited and ask a lot of questions, and I wanted a time for it to be just mine and [Baby's Father's]." And you: "I guess I see your point, but days later I'm still feeling hurt that you didn't want to tell me." In other words, bad news, kindly and lovingly delivered. You guys both chose to sit on whatever bad news you had.

You have a couple of choices here. You can think on it a while, and realize that this is your family's way, and you're not big on spilling your guts. From there you can decide that the status quo is really what you want and let the matter go, or you can try to be more honest emotionally. (Keep the kindness, of course, and step into it incrementally, for everyone's sake.) One way to start is to call your daughter and say that you both joked around the issue of her waiting to tell, but you find that you're genuinely curious, all these days later--and would she be willing to talk about why she waited?

If you do that, you -have- to stay cool no matter what the answer, which I'll get to in a second.

You can also think a while and realize this is not your family's way, and you've been lulled into believing all was well while your daughter slowly detached, except on a superficial level.

(more)

say something--and risk the

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Carolyn Hax: In that case, before you approach your daughter, it would behoove you to look inward for possible reasons she might have withdrawn. Do you have a history of sharing your opinions too freely, too emphatically, or at sensitive times when the better move was to hold back? Do people commonly mistake your excitement about their lives with a desire to run their lives? Was your family hyper-involved in a way that kind of bothered you growing up, but that you didn't really resist, and that you may have since unwittingly adopted with your kids? Do you talk "several times a week" because you call her? And if she calls you, is it possible that's a calculation she made because if she didn't, you'd be calling her constantly, and calling you allowed her at least to choose the days and times?

All of these are what-ifs, so I'm not even suggesting they're true. They're just possible conditions under which it would make sense that your daughter hid her pregnancy and joked away the reasons. That's all.

And so they're all worth considering if you're at a point where you feel you and your daughter and your relationship are due a closer look. It's best to explore these possibilities, as I said (100 years ago, it seems by now), before you approach the subject with your daughter.

If one of the possibilities rings true (or if you hit on something else entirely), then it would help your conversation with your daughter if you said to her yourself that you're worried you've been X, and if so, you apologize.

Otherwise, broaching your hurt feelings with her and asking her to explain why she waited so long to share her news might, just might, prompt her to say something you don't necessarily want to hear--and that brings us back to the part about keeping your cool. The chances of your relationship surviving a truth session--in fact, the chances of its emerging stronger--skyrocket when you receive unwelcome truths without lashing out.

(That "say something--and risk the" in the first take is a leftover from something I deleted. Pls excuse the burp.)

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To Midwest: Perhaps she could suggest going out to dinner or something with her boyfriend and his grandparents. It would let them spend money and not be something material.

Carolyn Hax: Sure--or a show of some kind, since the prices on mainstream performances can be staggering. Thanks.

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For the Atlanta Mother: I am the daughter of a woman who thinks we are much closer than we are. I've learned it's a control tactic she uses to get what she wants from me (and others). One things that struck me is something the mother said: "I just reiterated that I wanted to be involved from now on." What does this mean? If I heard that from my mother, it would reiterate why I chose not to tell her for 6 months (FWIW, I told my own mother 3 months into my pregnancy). I don't like my mother involved in my life. She tries to take control over things, questions my competency through her meddling, and generally complicates things for my growing family. Don't get me wrong - I love her and I value the "arms-reach" relationship that I believe we have. I just don't like letting her get too close, as it negatively impacts several people. So, perhaps the mother should look at how she interacts with the daugther and how that might impact the daughter and her family.

Carolyn Hax: Another diagnosis of meddling, from a daughter's perspective. Thanks.

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Wedding Dress WTF: Hi Carolyn,

I could use your perspective on this. I've been engaged for two years, but we have no desire to have a wedding or reception, mostly due to our parents' divorces.

Both of us grew up in the presence of nasty battles between our parents. We have no desire to have them ALL in the same place together. Sure, our parents can be adults and get through one day, but WE are the ones uncomfortable with it. We'd reallly like to go to the justice of the peace and have drinks afterwards.

This Thanksgiving my mom made me feel really sh-tty for not wanting a ceremony or reception. Her words were "now I'll never have the experience of shopping for a wedding dress with my daughter." (my younger brother and sister are married, but sis went ahead and bought the first dress she tried on)

I don't want to be insensitive, since this is obviously something she's fantasized about, but WTF? I stammered that we could go vintage shopping or something together, but I was not going to have a ceremony and reception.

I know this isn't the last I've heard of it. What type of parent bullies their kid into something like this? Or am I being a jerk about it -- should I just shut up, plaster a smile on my face, and go shopping, since it'll bring her so much joy?

BTW, my skin is veiny and translucent and i look TERRIBLE in white. And wedding dresses are dumb anyways.

Carolyn Hax: Would you please just get married your way and be done with it? The shared moments that matter are the ones that just happen, not the ones society scripts, and they happen between people who don't pressure each other for them. What your mother is demanding of you doesn't exist because authenticity on demand does not exist. Since you can't give her what doesn't exist, you're in the clear.

If it helps you feel better and/or lays a better foundation with your mom, try to think of something you would like to share with her, and invite her along. Even if it backfires, you'll know you tried, and she will on some level, too.

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Re: Mourning rites: You are so right, Carolyn. PLEASE do not force the issue. I lost my mom almost 10 years ago. One of my sisters was and is -very- openly demonstrative about it---always wanting to light candles and such. And I'm just Not. That. Way. It doesn't mean that I mourn my mom any less; I just prefer to go about it in a quieter, more private way. It is very disconcerting for people to make you feel like you are grieving "wrong." Please let your husband be.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Sigh.

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DC: I just went into the Fed Ex Kinkos by my office. One of the staff was being abusive to another staff person (calling him names, saying he was stupid, using a hostile and condescending tone with him). It was very jarring. I asked the guy if everything was ok and if he was being harassed because it was so bad. He just uncomfortably looked at his screen and generally tried to act like it wasn't happening. I was pretty mortified. When I go back in an hour to pick up my materials should I say something more direct? Should I call/email the manager? What is appropriate?

Carolyn Hax: Get names when you go back if you don't have them already, and notify the manager, as well as the corporate office, in case the manager is the one being abusive. Besides being rotten on a human level, the abusive language is bad for business, especially in front of a customer.

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Bored: I work in an office that basically has no work to do. You'd think all the free time would make me more motivated to do meaningful things outside of work. Instead I'm finding the opposite happening - that my laziness and apathy is extending into my personal life. How do I get my motivation back on track? (besides the obvious of looking for another job.)

Carolyn Hax: Are you at a computer in this boring office? Are you free to fill the empty hours as you choose? Could you, say, take a self-paced online course in something that interests you?

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Mom and wedding dress: how about saying something like "I appreciate your thoughts, Mom, but you know what? Your support for my marriage means so much more to me than a shopping trip would. We're in this for the long haul and I hope you are too!"

If it doesn't work, then please DO NOT bow to her bullying!

Carolyn Hax: Sounds good to me, thanks.

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Isn't about closeness at all.: My husband loves his mother more than he loves anyone except me, and we didn't call her to tell her. We waited until the whole gang was together (five months along, for us) and told them all at once in a funny-to-our-family way.

We did it that way because

- We love big surprises. Surprise parties, surprise announcements, surprise anything. - We love all of my husband's brothers equally and wanted to show that by telling them all at once. Not everyone lives close by. We didn't want to tell some people in person and some on the phone. - My mother in law is awesome, but she CANNOT keep her mouth shut about babies, and would have started calling everyone, and we wanted the fun of telling the relatives our own selves. - We wanted to be able to answer "boy or girl" for people when they asked so everyone would hear that at once, too. Most people learn that part at 20 weeks. - Frankly, the first half of pregnancy is boring and doesn't really show. All the interesting bits - the belly, the kicking, etc - are in the last three months.

Had nothing to do with closeness, no offense was intended, and grandma still had months to make blankets and dig out toys and get my husband's old playpen set up. Months.

Grandma-to-be, are you really going to wreck three delirious months of fun by being sad about a few lousy weeks?

Carolyn Hax: Another POV, and less fraught, thanks.

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Alexandria, VA: I've been friends with "Jack" for years, and after a loooot of false starts, we are just now crossing over into a more romantic relationship. We've been on two dates so far with plans for a third, and a lot of joking about how nice it is "getting to know" one another.

These jokes are the root of the problem: I genuinely don't know whether to treat him like a brand-new dating partner, or one I have been seeing for ages. I know him so well that taking it slow is painfully frustrating at times, but I don't want to ruin this by rushing into being serious, either. How do other people handle this weird transition?

Carolyn Hax: Embrace the weirdness. Be the weirdness. It will pass on its own, and efforts to fight it will just make things weirder.

Almost as weird as "a loot of false starts," which is how I read your opening line.

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Seattle, WA: My daughter is dating a man who is not real ambitious and lives at home. She is a college student. I like the man and he is a good person so I don't have a real problem with him (although he smokes and drinks quite a bit so that bothers me but I'm not dating him). My husband, however, is really against this relationship, which has been going on for almost two years. As a result, the boyfriend doesn't come over to our house and our daughter spends tons of time at his house. Our other daughter is a senior in high school with a boyfriend who is her age. He comes over to our house about once a week for dinner and is welcome here. Older daughter is furious that her boyfriend is not accorded the same treatment. I kind of agree with her and her boyfriend is welcome here as far as I am concerned. With the holidays and family events coming up, I know that my older daughter will be angry at the disparate treatment of the two boyfriends. I get it, but also see my husband's side of things because the boyfriend has done some not so nice things to our daughter over the past two years and we were left to help her pick up the pieces. I guess my question is: I feel stuck in the middle and would love to know what the best approach to this entire scene should be for all parties.

Carolyn Hax: Please try to impress upon your husband that 1. banning the dude from your home guarantees that the relationship occurs where he can't see it for himself, which means he will witness neither serious abuse nor serious progress, and that's not helping his daughter; and 2. it also backs his daughter into a corner, where making things work with this guy becomes a way for her to prove herself to her dad. The last thing he wants is to create an incentive for her to stay with him, and that's exactly what he has done.

The best thing he can do to kill a bad relationship is allow it into the light. Let the daughter see her BF drink too much or misbehave in her parents' presence; let her wince with recognition and humiliation, and let that nudge her to the brink. It may seem tough to swallow on principle, but this is one of those rare cases when principle is not his friend.

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When I go back in an hour to pick up my materials should I say something more direct? Should I call/email the manager? What is appropriate?: Also ask for a customer complaint form so you can report the incident. If the manager was the abuser he won't do anything about it. This needs to get to the attention of the district manager.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks.

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Hello, Peanuts and other Legumes!: Again, a heartfelt thanks to those of you that showed up for book signings and other fun events. This note is for those of you that couldn't. As of today, signed copies of "If You Loved Me, You'd Think This Was Cute," are available on nickandzuzu.com. Click on over and check it out.

Thank you for letting me horn in on the Friday fun. Oh, and next week, MORE STUFF!

Be well, Nick

Carolyn Hax: "More stuff" being prints, I believe, to start, with more coming.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

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wedding dress : Why not just invite Mom to go shopping for whatever it is you're going to wear during your ceremony-- or even just help you go through your closet to pick out your outfit? It doesn't have to be a princessy white gown-- it could be a red dress, new jeans, nice hair clip-- whatever. It seems to me like she wants to be involved, and this seems like an easy compromise.

Carolyn Hax: It does, but only if the mom was expressing genuine disappointment at not sharing the dress-shopping with her, and not wielding guilt as a cudgel to punish her daughter for not serving the delusion that they have a close relationship despite years of her trying to control her children and punishing them when they resist.

Really could go either way.

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Wedding Dress: I think acknowledging the mom's hurt is an appropriate thing to do. No, she shouldn't bully, and bride should do what works best for her, but yes, it's okay for her mom to be sad that something she had looked forward to isn't going to happen, and it would be a loving thing to do to absorb that hurt and compassionately respond to it as best you can within reasonable limits. It's kindof crappy to dismiss her hurt as stupid. There is such a thing as an Anti-Bride-Bridezilla. Don't be that person.

Carolyn Hax: See above.

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Dumpsville: Population Me: Ok, so my girlfriend(of two years) dumped me yesterday. Surprisingly, I feel a little relieved. We fought alot, not something I'm used to in a relationship, and while the emotional roller coster was sometimes exhilirating, it had grown tiresome, for both of us I guess. Although I didn't see this coming. Thought I'd have to end it. The problem? We share the same group of friends, and I am getting a bunch of e-mails/texts/phone calls asking how I am and nobody is believing me when I say I'm fine. Also, I was informed she is now "dating" another friend in our group (my guess is for awhile) and everyone seems to be walking on eggshells about it. Our group has an annual holiday party next week, I intended to go and enjoy myself before all these messages. I harbor no ill will to my ex or this other "friend." But part of me is thinking to just avoid the drama. In my shoes (with albeit limited info) would you go to the party?

Carolyn Hax: Yep. And next time people ask you how you are, don't say "Fine"--that's code for a range of things from "still drawing breath but that's about it" to "I'm still too rattled to talk about it" to "How the hell do you think I am?"

The answer you give from now on is, "Relieved," which won't mean anything but that except to people who need drama so badly that they're willing to believe you're lying to them to be brave.

I suppose some people could argue that you're trashing her by saying you're relieved, but (a) she's the one who dumped you, and (b) it's easy to explain away kindly with, "She's a good person, but we fought a lot." You could also say you're happy for her and the new man.

I also suppose all of this could be dismissed as TMI for people who aren't owed any dirt on your breakup, but I'm more concerned about what you owe yourself (primarily) and her. If "I'm relieved, and happy for her" would buy you pest-free reentry into your social life, then by all means say it.

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What if you're the customer being mocked/abused?: I recently walked out of a Chico's dressing room to find one saleswoman laughing to another at my size and choice of dresses -- "well, beggars can't be choosers!" The second saleslady saw me and shushed her, but rather than apologizing she made a joke out of it: "yes, yes, not in front of the children!"

For the record, the chain carries my size (14), and I would have bought the dress. Instead I dropped the dress and walked out, too shocked to say anything. What should I have done?

Carolyn Hax: Written the management, as long as there was no possibility that you misread the scene. That's awful. I'm sorry.

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Orlando, FL: I have a friend, not a close friend, but one for whom I have great affection. Her family's having an extraordinarily difficult time this year and she's really down. She never does anything for herself, it all goes to her family. I'm in a position this year where I can actually afford to do something small for her. I don't want it to seem like charity, or pity because it's not. I just want to take her out to get a pedi and give her a silly coffee drink to sip while we're there. Something she'd NEVER do for herself. She's very sensitive about her circumstances. Is there any way I can do this without hurting her pride, which I think is the biggest issue?

Carolyn Hax: Make it about you. Say you want some uninterrupted time with her, your treat, and schedule the pedi for a salon that allows you to sit side-by-side.

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Messville.: So 3 1/2 years ago I dated a guy for a few months. Thing were messy for us at the time, me coming out of a bad relationship, his divorce, so we ended it. But we've been best friends ever since. Everyone who is around us say that we are best friends who are in love. We haven't tried again because timing is always off, one of us is dating someone else, etc. So last week we accidently hook up while drunk. The first time it's ever happened. But now my head is in a mess. We have an awesome friendship. Talk almost daily. Share everything. So do you think it's possible to attempt a relationship again without ruining the friendship?

Carolyn Hax: I wonder if you can -not- attempt a relationship without ruining the friendship.

What did you say to each other last week, post-bender?

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Anti-Bride-Bridezilla: Isn't the correct term for that a Bridemegalon?

Carolyn Hax: Has to be.

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lying about his ex-girlfriend: Hi Carolyn, Do you think it's a red flag to not tell your SO about a past crush? I used to have a major crush on a friend of mine--nothing came of it, but he told me he did not tell his wife so she wouldn't feel uncomfortable around me...

Carolyn Hax: There's a difference between "We used to date" and "She used to want me bad." Omitting the former is a lie, and omitting the latter is humility.

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I'm more concerned about what you owe yourself: New friends. Honestly, they sound like nice people (if a little drama hungry), but the whole thing sound too incestuous. Branch out, go for happy hour with the gang at work, broaden your circle.

Carolyn Hax: That too, thanks.

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Anonymous: Hi Carolyn,

My in-laws have always been insistent that we accept gifts from them. This has included large sums of money, the all-holy Christmas Gift Exchange, furniture, etc. I've never been comfortable with this but haven't been successful at refusing the gifts entirely because of my husband. He doesn't want to seem ungrateful; furthermore, he has a bank account from his childhood set up that his parents can access, so if we don't cash the checks they give us, they'll wire it directly into his account.

They've never lorded what they've given over us in any way, thankfully, and they've always had the best of intentions. But I can't help but feel miffed when my wishes are ignored, and I feel awkward about taking money or lavish gifts from anyone. I've always been honest about this but no one seems to be taking me seriously. What can I do?

Carolyn Hax: 1. You absolutely have a point that your wishes deserve to be honored.

2. You have an important decision to make in what you do from here. Is feeling "miffed" enough of a reason to take on people who may be more well-meaning and clueless than controlling and disrespectful? Or are you more than "miffed" and you're trying a little harder than you should to draw a smiley face on these meddlers and their immature son?

3. In other words, could you get that vague bad taste out of your mouth by donating the money or putting it to some other very virtuous, very-you (you the couple) purpose? Or are you overdue to face this squarely, and tell your husband you are not comfortable accepting the money and you're not comfortable with being ignored in your previous attempts to be heard on this? Are you ready to ask him to close the joint account? Are you ready to take it to counseling if your husband refuses?

You can go small with this or go big, and the choice has to be based on the degree of the problem.

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wedding dress - me again: The follow up comments are interesting. I'm not anti-bride. I love weddings actually. Just don't want one for myself, for reasons already mentioned. And yes, mom does default into using intimidation and guilt to get what she wants. When she made her comment, it wasn't directly to me - it was to the person sitting across from her at the dinner table on T'giving. So, yeah.

Thanks for your perspective.

Carolyn Hax: You're welcome. Some others asked about the length of the engagement, and wondered whether it was just about the stress of the wedding/family issues or whether those issues were serving as fig leaf for doubts about the relationship (or, of course, if it was just about logistics, like graduating from a program or something). Just putting it out there.

Congratulations, and hope you find a happy resolution somewhere.

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Controlling, delusional moms: Carolyn,

I'm a new mom, and I love my 1-year-old daughter so much that it almost hurts. When I see questions like the one about the wedding dress shopping, or the one about withholding the pregnancy news for six months, it makes me really sad. How do I make sure that this stuff doesn't happen to me? How do I avoid being the mom who doesn't learn about the pregnancy until 6 months, or the mom whose daughter complains about how controlling she is? I love my daughter too much to let that happen.

FWIW, I have a great relationship with my own mom.

Carolyn Hax: Ooh, I'm sending this to Philes. My 60-second answer, since I have to go: Let her be herself. It's when parents try to shape their kids to fit their hopes/dreams/expectations (beyond, polite, decent, law-abiding, etc.) that the rifts get angry and deep.

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Carolyn Hax: That's it for now. Remember, next week we bust out the bathroom pot and the Death Chair, and whatever else makes you misty for home (or anyplace but), so type it up and ... oh boy I forgot to tell Pops he's on deadline. Heh.

Anyway, thanks everyone, have a great weekend and see you here next week.

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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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