Carolyn Hax Live: Crotch-grabbing coworkers; Flying with twin babies; Dealing with 'bridesmaid-zilla'; Suspicious girlfriends; 'Warning sighs' and much more

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 28, 2011; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, January 28, 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

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.


Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody. Nick's on the road to promote his book, so if you'd like to go to one of the events, have a look at his schedule on his Facebook page

or mine:

Mine is in the Notes tab--as are a few good updates that I posted last week.


Withheld: Hello again. I am following up on the question I sent you last week about my husband and his frequent communication with another Army Reservist. In preparation for his return home on Saturday, I have gathered exact cell phone data from our service provider beginning August 2009 to this past week. The records indicate a grand total of 12,337 call minutes and 6,889 text messages between the two of them over that timeframe. I plan to follow your advice and, as calmly as I possibly can, show him the 200+ page printout of information, but I can no longer give him the benefit of the doubt and am prepared to ask him to pack his things and leave. My question now is regarding the upcoming birth of our son. I really would prefer for him not to be present during such a joyous occasion and want to punish him for what he has done to our family by denying him the privilege of being there. On the other hand, the better part of me believes that, as the father, he has the right to be present. Your advice please.

Carolyn Hax: I'm sorry, that must be an awful feeling.

I did some quick math--that's about 22 minutes on the phone and 12 text messages per day. While the big numbers are accurate, it's the daily numbers you need to keep in mind, because it sounds as if seeing totals has been emotionally overwhelming.

I say that because I still think you should hear him out and not make any major decisions until you do--and that includes whether he moves out or attends the birth of your child. It's fine, though, to have thought your way through the worst-case scenario in advance, so you've made peace with various choices ahead of time. A minor distinction but, I think, an important one.


Montana: Dear Carolyn,

I was led to believe my girlfriend was using a particular kind of birth control, but recently found out she had discontinued it and gotten something else put in, with a one-month gap in between. I can't believe she didn't tell me about the gap. I now know the whole story (I think), but I can't get past my paranoia that she's keeping some secret that puts us at risk of pregnancy. It's causing, er, problems. Time to move on?

Carolyn Hax: Have you talked to her? "Since I learned what you did with the birth control, I haven't been able to shake this fear that you're keeping secrets about other things." As with the situation in the preceding post, the way she responds will be telling, and I'd be surprised if her reaction didn't make your decision for you.


Dupont Cir. : My girlfriend gave me a pretty specific Christmas gift. Think along the lines of concert tickets, something based on specific tastes, to be used at a specific time, something better chosen for oneself than given as a gift. I wasn't really interested, but I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I gushed appropriately and then secretly passed the gift off to a friend who actually wanted it. Ultimately my girlfriend found out and her feelings are really hurt. How could I have handled it better?

Carolyn Hax: You could have either gone to the event with an open mind (and your GF), or leveled with her, and as an apology/pro-GF gesture, bought tickets for both of you to enjoy some other thing.

For what it's worth, though, she's taking it a bit too personally. Instead of recognizing that you tried to protect her feelings--a sign of loving intent--she's focusing on your rejection of her gift--which to my mind is a sign of nothing more than having different tastes. It's accidental harm, and she's (apparently) reacting like it was deliberate harm.

I hope that makes sense. The words aren't coming out easily today for some reason.


Am I the bad egg?: Been reading through your old columns and realized you always advise against dating people who don't get along with their exes. I have three exes worth noting and am on bad- to-neutral terms with all of them. Would it really be right to assume I'm definitely the problem?

Carolyn Hax: I'm always a little uncomfortable with the idea of extrapolating the advice from past columns and applying it to a similar situation. If there's a difference in one key detail, the advice is often completely different.

With that disclaimer in place, I'll try for a general answer. First, you say your relationships with your exes are "bad to neutral." Don't discount the neutral; that's a perfectly healthy outcome when two people used to love each other but don't any more, or just don't get along any more.

And even if all your relationships with exes were bad, there'd still be plenty of room for redemption.

Hostile relations with exes, as a pattern, say you've got one (or both) of two things going on: You're a shaky judge of character, and/or you have shaky relationship skills.

While both of these have to be regarded as serious problems by any prospective mates, both are also areas where a person can improve. If you've done the hard work to recognize and break your bad habits, then said prospective mates should also factor that in to their opinions of you.

So I guess the answer is, yes, if there's a pattern, then you're at least part of the problem, but that doesn't mean you're doomed to be problematic. Look back at your past mistakes and see whether there are lessons in there.


Washington, DC: My daughter is recently engaged...a happy occasion! Now how do we decide how much we are willing to spend on the wedding? We have adequate means but are generally frugal. So many weddings seem to be such huge extravaganzas! We don't know how to start thinking about what might be reasonable or necessary for a 'nice' wedding. I know we need to give our daughter and her 'beau' a budget. Any help is appreciated!

Carolyn Hax: I suggest sitting down and putting together a rough idea of what you'd consider a "nice" wedding--location, number of guests, heavy hors d'oeuvres/buffet/sit-down meal, DJ vs live music, etc. Then, make a few calls and/or go online and gather some information on pricing. If you just wing it, then the location you regard as simple and nice might seem like a few thousand dollars in your mind, but be $15,000 in reality--and so you'll believe you're giving your daughter a fair budget for "nice" when really it will buy her 20 guests in a public park. Not that there's anything wrong with 20 guests in a public park--just that what you think you're giving should match what you really are giving.

Another way to handle it, btw, that I've always liked is to make a gift of the money and say they can spend it all on a ceremony, or they can go the budget route and use the money for savings or a house or whatever else. That way you cut the strings that are often attached to wedding budgets, and that lead to so many hard feelings.


Winchester, VA: Do you think it's ever okay to refuse someone's apology and interest in friendship? The person apologizing seems sincere about his throwing me under the bus and wants to make things right. However, I was already at a bad point in my life, and though that's not his fault, I want nothing to do with him ever again. Is it okay to just move away from this and not feel like I have to accept his apology, nor connect with him on any level?

Carolyn Hax: If the apology is sincere, then I think you have a duty to accept it. That doesn't mean that you have to stay in the friendship, though. It's perfectly normal, and fair, to recognize the under-bus-throwing as an occasion to revisit your interest in being friends. If it's gone, then it's gone.


Getting along with Exes: I'm not the one who originally asked about being a bad egg but now I wonder b/c I'm not friends with any of my serious exes (there are 3). I tried with the first serious ex but in the end it was better if we didn't speak. I've thought of reaching out to say hi, see how he's doing but now that I'm dating someone it feels inappropriate. For the second one I have no desire to reach out and for the third I could but have decided not to. For me it's easier to not have contact with them. I'm sure if our paths crossed somehow I'd be civil but I wouldn't go out of my way. I never thought this as an issue until I saw that posting. I'm interested to hear what your thoughts are.

Carolyn Hax: I have no particular thoughts on falling out of touch with exes. To me that falls under the "neutral" heading and it's just not a powerful sign of anything, except that life took you in different directions.

What I'm talking about is actively bad relationships with more than one ex-GF or BF. Angry calls, calls to new GFs/BFs/family members, accusations, stalking, court dates, restraining orders, public shouting, revenge attempts, rumor spreadings, inability to attend the same party lest there be accusations and shouting, drunk dialing, and other kinds of crazy.


Chapel Hill, NC: My friend and I got engaged around the same time and were planning our weddings together. Her fiance bailed--she is devastated. She abruptly pulled away from me after that. I have not spoken to her once since the day she told me what happened, though I have called several times trying to express my sympathy. I'm sure it must be hard for her to think about my upcoming wedding, but she is a dear friend and was supposed to be in my bridal party. Should I just assume she's backing out, and should I stop calling?

Carolyn Hax: Leave one more message--tell her you've put 2 and 2 together and realize she doesn't want to talk to you right now, but that you miss her and will be there for her when she's ready. Then let her decide when it's time to come around.

In the meantime, it's okay to contact her in ways that don't require her to respond--birthday greeting, Christmas card, that kind of stuff.

This isn't to condone a total shutdown like this, btw; I believe adults owe it to each other to say out loud, "I know you mean well but I really just need to disappear for a while," or something like that. But all good friends get leeway in the wake of devastating news.


Manhattan: Hi, Carolyn!

I'm in a great relationship of 3 years. My boyfriend has a platonic female friend, "Megan," whom he met at work last year. Every time I've been around her, she flirts with him overtly and shamelessly. Usually it's framed as a joke, but sometimes it really crosses the line, such as a recent time when she actually grabbed his crotch at a restaurant. (He pushed her hand away but kind of laughed it off, which irked me.) I think I'm a totally reasonable gf when it comes to trusting my boyfriend around other women, but I think Megan's behavior displays an utter lack of respect for me (and, frankly, makes her look ridiculous, which she doesn't seem to realize). Should I continue to look the other way? Approach her directly? Or stop joining him on work-related outings?

Carolyn Hax: I was waiting for this and it wasn't there, so:

(d) Tell your boyfriend that you have no problem with his friendships with other women, but that you feel really uncomfortable around Megan, because she's out of line on a regular basis. Then see what he says.


Bad Exes: Carolyn: I thought your "bad relationships with exes" definition extended to harboring active ill or an overly negative attitude towards all of one's exes. If every single one of a person's exes is a "beeyotch/b-stard from hell" rather than just someone with whom things didn't work out, that's a big warning sign. Have I read you right?

Carolyn Hax: Yes, you did, thanks. Even when there's no ongoing craziness, if the person you're dating speaks about exes as if they're all monsters--or just the ones they blame for the demise of the relationship--than that's a warning sigh. Healthy people will account for their own mistakes, not vilify others for theirs.


Accepting an apology: What constitutes accepting an apology?

I suppose one could say "I hear that you sincerely regret what you've done. And I appreciate that. That said, I think I need to take some time to heal. When I'm ready I'll come to you..." And then never speak to the person again. But is that really "accepting" an apology?

On a side note, if your partner cheats and you forgive them, can you still leave them because of it?


Carolyn Hax: I define accepting an apology as acknowledging the perp's remorse, and thanking said perp for expressing it.

They: "I'm really sorry I threw you under the bus."

You: "Thank you, I appreciate your saying that."

That's it.

The way you phrased it, it's a lie, isn't it? "I think I need some time to heal" is not the same thing as, "While I believe you're genuinely sorry, I don't think I can go back to being friends."

As for the cheating ex, yes, of course--you can forgive and still leave. Forgiveness is acknowledging someone's humanity and frailty, and choosing not to remain angry or seek retribution. But that doesn't mean you have to put yourself back into a shared home with that particular bit of human frailty ever again. They're two separate things.


Reservist Wife: I think the Reservist Wife should ratchet her feelings down a few notches. She hasn't even talked to him yet, and she's ready to throw him out and keep from from the birth of their son. I know that, left to my own devices, I can stew and worry and let my imagination run wild in a way that is not helpful.

Did we ever find out whether he was deployed, and this other reservist is an emotional support for bad experiences? I really hope that she presents the calling/texting information and lets him explain what's going on. They're married, life is a struggle sometimes. Maybe they can work this out.

Carolyn Hax: Just another vote for waiting. (Thanks.)


Idaho again: I hesitated to add this, but I think often the discourse on infidelity has gotten pretty cut and dried - basically, if you did it, you're out. I am NOT talking about your situation specifically, but I keep remembering what the author of an autobiography called Vertigo said; her husband had an affair right after their baby was born. She said something like a truly contrite spouse is a benefit in carrying a marriage forward because they will do the needed work and know they did wrong. I think it all depends on your conversation tomorrow, and what kind of man you find yourself talking to.

Carolyn Hax: And another, thanks.

It also depends on what kind of marriage they have, how strong she is, how strong their love is. That might seem like a howler when one of them is under suspicion of having an affair of 18 months and counting, predating his wife's pregnancy, but there's nothing automatic about situations like this.


Manhattan/Megan Followup: Sorry, I should have mentioned this--I did (d) the very first time it happened, and again a few weeks later. My boyfriend is highly unconfrontational and would rather die than have an awkward discussion with Megan about it, which I can understand and sympathize with. He basically told me he understands how I feel, but that he has to work with her, and he's afraid a confrontation like that would make it too tough to be comfortable around her in the future. I should add that Megan is about ten years older than we are and married, which makes my bf view her as more of an authority figure than a peer. I don't blame him for not feeling comfortable with this, so it's up to me to say something (if it's necessary).

Carolyn Hax: No no no, it's not up to you to say something. This is his life, his job, his crotch(!). I realize I'm talking to you, not to him, but this is his problem to solve.

Telling her to keep her hands off his pants would be awkward, but letting her grab them isn't? Oy.

I feel the pain of anyone who's naturally averse to confrontation, believe me--but while it's fine not to blame him for his discomfort, there will be a point where you can blame him for being unwilling to get out of his comfort zone long enough to set extremely reasonable boundaries with the Megans of the world. Think carefully about this battle before you go fighting it for him.


California: Hi Carolyn, My automatic reaction to most things is negative and usually wrong. For example, my boyfriend won't call when he says he will and my brain goes through all negative scenarios from a sordid affair to dead in a ditch. But with everything: rats in the toilet (have to check before sitting), coffeemaker left on (going to catch on fire and kill my dog), friend doesn't call (she thinks I am crazy...) About 99% of the time I am wrong, but whenever I am right I can feel my brain gnomes stroking my pessimistic lobe. How can I change the knee-jerk reaction of my thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: Have you been screened for a clinical disorder, such as anxiety, OCD, PTSD ... ? Given the prevalence of the problem, your level of frustration with it and its persistence in spite of your desire to fix it, I think a checkup is the logical first step here. There are some online screening tools you can use to start ( one, but there are many others), but a good mental-health care provider is the only reliable path to a diagnosis. Some of the screening sites also offer locator functions so you can search for qualified providers in your Zip code.


Warning sigh: Quite possibly your most astute and complex typo yet. I'm completely serious. I think the concept of a warning sigh is an incredibly apt description of the kind of signal announced by someone who harbors overt ill-will toward all their exes.

Carolyn Hax: I just like the idea of astute and complex typos.


Bridesmaid-zilla?: Hi Carolyn,

I think I have a new one for you: As a bridesmaid in my future sister in law's wedding, I just got an email from the maid of honor assigning me certain dates on which to send the bride gifts (trinkets? a bottle of wine? who knows?) to "encourage her." I'm buying a dress, dying shoes to match, traveling for the wedding, and no doubt shelling out for a bachelorette party. Am I being a grinch or is this over the top? Also- the whole "encouragement" thing rubs me the wrong way. You're marrying the love of your life then having a party with everyone you love- this sounds like a good deal to me; "encouragement" implies that this is a struggle to be gotten through. She's getting married, not running a marathon or going through chemo. (My dirty lens on this is that I have in fact done both those things- the chemo while planning my own wedding. And I didn't insist on 6 months of weekly gifts from my bridesmaids. Sheesh.) So, two questions I guess: 1) Am I over-reacting, or is this actually reasonable?, and 2) If it is over the top, is there any way I can say so without totally offending everyone or do I just suck it up? (Technically, we can afford to do this, I just don't want to. )


Carolyn Hax: 1) there is nothing reasonable about this request;

2) Please respond to the MoH that "encouragement" implies that the bride is going through something terrible, and that if this is so, you'd like to help in some more significant way. (The dyed-to-match shoes support the argument that there's something dire going on, but don't include that in your note.)

If she responds in earnest that all is well and the gifts are just about showing the bridesmaid love, then please say clearly that you're going to decline--no reflection on the bride, you just feel you're giving enough for the cause already.

BTW, I can't tell if you're genuinely wondering whether this is excessive or if you know full well and are baiting me to say horrible things about wedding excess, but, either way, the answer is, yes, this is wedding excess, and the risk of giving offense is not a legitimate argument against saying "no."


Atlanta, GA: Megan/Manhattan: I suggestion asking the BF about his employer's sexual harrassment policy.

Carolyn Hax: The law governing workplaces is readily available:

... and this delineates which workplaces are covered by these laws:

Even if his workplace doesn't qualify, state and local laws (and company policies, in that order) might come into play.


Bridesmaid-zilla again: Thanks. I wasn't baiting, just wanted an outside opinion from someone whose judgment I trust.

Carolyn Hax: Okay, thanks, just checking. (I'm so very baitable on this topic.)


Megan Trouble: Carolyn, both the writer and her bf need to develop some serious inter-personal skills if they both think the only way to handle Megan-like behavior is via confrontation. There are so many other ways, from joking to body-language, to handle unwanted attention. Next time she goes for the crotch, he could say "Megan, I'm flattered, but my privates are not for public petting. Gf takes care of that at home." The fact that Megan persists indicates that he's putting out vibes that he's receptive to her advances. Both bf & gf need to be neutral to her bad behavior.

Carolyn Hax: I agree, with some quibbles.

First, BF doesn't see confrontation as the way to handle Megan; he apparently favors capitulation.

Second, an emphatic no! no! no! to saying, "Gf takes care of that at home." That's just skeevatz. "Megan, remove your hand from my body."

I guess those are bigger than quibbles, but I do agree with your basic premise that this situation has revealed the need for both of them to work to do on their people skills, and that both of them, if they're serious about getting Megan back to her side of the fence (BF's seriousness is still TBD), need to learn civil ways to express how extremely unwelcome her advances are--starting with, I would think, not spending time with her outside the office.


Re: Bridesmaid-zilla?: Two things:

1) Just because you can afford to do something is immaterial. Don't even bring it up. I can afford to go on a 10-day luxury cruise. It doesn't mean it's a good idea.

2) Why does this even merit a response? That's what I'd do. If she comes to me directly, then I think you should take Carolyn's advice. But sometimes behavior is so bad that not responding at all is sometimes the best response.

Unless someone grabbed your crotch...

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Another opinion here:


Bridesmaid-zilla: To show you how out of whack the MoH is, when we got married, I asked my ushers to wear their own tuxes, but I rented the tuxes for the two who didn't own one. For the gals, my wife took them shopping, gave them the color palette and let them buy non-matching dresses of the same color so that each could have a style that suited them (and I know that at least one them wore the dress for another occasion). We were very conscious of the time and effort our wedding party was putting in for us. WE got THEM gifts as thank yous for helping us celebrate our special occasion and did not get gifts from them.

Yes, definitely bridesmaid-zilla (since MoH is the sister, maybe inspired by bridezilla). This is why family members are not supposed to be hosting events...because it comes off as the in-the-family greed that it really is. Please call them on so politely if you can find a way, but definitely call them on it.

Carolyn Hax: Two to ponder.


DC Area: Aack! I'm getting ready to submit an application for a major post-doctoral fellowship and I'm kind of freaking out a little. Any tips or words of encouragement? It's not actually due till Tuesday, so I could theoretically sit on it and stew for another four days, but I want to avoid any last-minute website crashes....

Carolyn Hax: If you just finished it today, set it aside, get some rest, then proof it and send it tomorrow. If you've already let it (and you) rest, and you've gone back over it and it all sounds okay to you, then send it.

Unless someone with direct knowledge of post-doc mysteries wants to advise otherwise ... ? You have about 30 min to weigh in.


Walla Walla, WA: Dear Carolyn,

I've got 6-month-old twins and a husband in a wheelchair, recovering from surgery. I've also got parents on the opposite coast who are dying to see the babies in person, which they never have. They won't visit me because they have severe hangups about travel: They find security disorienting, one has knee problems that make it difficult to sit still for hours, one gets anxious to the point of needing Valium when she flies, and they hate layovers, which are generally unavoidable. Plus, it's expensive and their budget is fixed. So they want me to fly with the babies to visit them, which sounds like a nightmare for me without the help of my husband. I'd be much more willing to bite the bullet and go if I didn't feel like so many of their objections to flying were surmountable, but part of me thinks I'm just being unsympathetic and making excuses. What do you think?

Carolyn Hax: Have to admit, I'm torn here, too. In the one hand, I can think of a bunch of practical suggestions that can ease the burden of their non-flying stance. They can try a combination of car/rail, for example, or they can pay for you to bring a friend or nanny to help you travel (expensive, but still cheaper than having both of them fly out), or they can darn well wait till your husband is back on his feet.

Doesn't his recovery mean this is a bad time for his spouse to travel anyway?

Anyway. On the other hand, I have a real problem with someone who thinks it's too dangerous for her to fly but is fine with having her 6-month-old grandbabies fly.

Assuming you have the same conflicting impulses, I think you can reconcile them if you're able to decide which impulse is of more immediate importance to you: having your parents meet their grandchildren, or keeping your already substantial stress to a minimum. If you choose the latter, then you can revisit your decision periodically as conditions improve.

If that's still not enough to nudge you toward a decision, then it's time to speak openly with your parents: "I could conceivably fly out there without Husband, but that promises to be extremely difficult for the three of us, and it's bothering me that you'd rather have the babies fly than to confront your fears."

If you go that route, though, you might want to prepare beforehand to help them undertake the trip--check for and price direct flights; offer to help with the cost; inquire about special services at the airports to help them with security, etc.


Post-doctoral fellowship application encouragement: Clearly you need to assemble a group of friends to send you presents at assigned intervals until this is complete.

Carolyn Hax: Snort.


Post Doc: Get someone to read it through. This really is mostly for clarity and proof so it doesn't have to someone in the field. Ask the friend you see as the best editor - a particular skill.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. True of this, of college applications, of resumes/cover letters ...

Which reminds me of a story. A few years back, someone sent me an appeal for an internship (I don't hire interns, btw) and the cover letter was a typo and grammatical-error extravaganza. I replied that I don't hire interns, and then I kindly (I swear) advised that, given the condition of her letter to me, she get someone to proofread any material she plans to send to potential employers in the future.

She responded with a stream of hostility that I remember to this day, declaring that her letter was error-free and I had no business questioning the quality of her work.

Wonder what she's up to today.


Re: encouragement for a bride: If I can speak up in defense of the idea that a bride would need encouragement...

Two of my bridesmaids sent me a few sweet, small surprises the week before my wedding (flowers, cookies, a note). It was so, so nice of them, and really helped buck me up during a very stressful week. My (then-)fiance and I had been living with his mom for three weeks. In the Midwest. In a bedroom with no air conditioning. I love his family very dearly, but they were driving me absolutely batsh!t crazy in the final days before the wedding. Yes, I was marrying the love of my life and excited beyond words to do so, but that doesn't mean that the process didn't have its moments.

I don't condone the MOH assigning days/gifts to the wedding party in the way she did, but I can see the thoughtfulness at the core of the idea.

Carolyn Hax: Fair nuff. As long as it's spontaneous and based on the knowledge that the marrying party is under externally imposed distress.


Carolyn Hax: Under duress. In distress. I really should have someone read these things for me before I post them ...


Traveling families: One parent with two infants and a non-self-mobile spouse is not a good traveling situation. She needs to explain this to her parents calmly. Knowing their situation is also difficult she should offer to pay for them to travel out to her and if they can't overcome their phobias and issues, then they'll have to wait until the husband is mobile, self-sufficient and able to help with the children. In the meantime, buy two laptops with webcams and skype back and forth. The grandparents can read the kids to sleep, see them on video and talk with the parents while the parents are taking care of the kids. They won't be able to hold the grandkids, but it will definitely make them feel closer to the grandchildren.

Carolyn Hax: Ooh, like the Skype idea, thanks,


I'm a suspicious girlfriend - help: Hi Carolyn,

I'm suspicious girlfriend. I never thought it would come to this, but sadly, it has. I was incredibly trusting until a boyfriend cheated and lied over a long period of time. We broke up a few years ago, and I've since moved on.

Now every little innocent thing that my boyfriend does seems sinister. He washed his sheets - he MUST be cheating! I'm aware of this, and I try very very hard not to freak out to my boyfriend, but my entire body literally fills with dread when something triggers me. My heart starts racing, and I can't think of anything else.

He's started wanting to change his behavior to stop me from freaking out. Meaning, not going to lunch with a longtime female friend etc. I tell him to just do it and that I'll deal with the anxiety/crazy on my own. But he says he loves me and he sees how freaked out I get and doesn't want me to hurt. This is wearing on him, and on us.

I never thought I'd be in this position and it breaks my heart. I used to be so trusting and so not suspicious. Please, some advice?

Carolyn Hax: You say you will--but are you really dealing with the anxiety/crazy on your own?

Trying not to freak out is good, and recognizing that your suspicion and dread are your problem is good, but these can't be the end of your efforts to fix this--not if you've tried them already and they plainly haven't worked.

Your next step--both as an act of self-preservation and as a show of good faith to your boyfriend--is to seek professional help. Ultimately you're the one who is going to have to deal with it, whether you get help or not, but a good, reputable therapist can see stuff you've missed, suggest things that haven't occurred to you, and teach you strategies that have a proven track record for healing traumatized people.

If you don't have insurance or your insurance doesn't cover mental health care (dunno where the law is these days), then there are low or no-cost options: clergy with therapeutic training and credentials, teaching hospitals, universities with degree programs in clinical psychology and social work, clinics, to name a few.


Intern: I is dewing grate in me knew posytion at NTTymes.

Carolyn Hax: Noyce!


RE SKYPE: Maybe a minor point, but you don't need a laptop to be able to Skype. It makes it easier because it's mobile, but you don't need to go out an buy one. If the letter writer and her parents each already have desktops, that's good enough. Webcams are dirt-cheap so it's a small investment to make.

Carolyn Hax: I read right past the "buy two laptops" ... yes, just need webcams. Parents might need someone to come install them and get them set up--flight aversion might be connected to tech aversion--but otherwise, no big investment required.


MD: I made a horribly rude comment a couple weeks ago to my boyfriend (of 2+ years) about his older sister. She is about 5 months pregnant and still smokes about 5 cigerattes a day (down from 2 packs). In a moment of fustration (which had nothing to do with her) I blurted out that I thought she "was a horrible person" (because she was smoking while pregnant). I generally get along with his sister. I appologized to my boyfriend, saying that I was out of line and I never should have said what I said. (For the record, he agrees with me that smoking while pregnant is bad, but obviousley he does not think that his sister is a horrible person). My boyfriend forgave me, but I still feel rotten. Is there anything else I can do to feel less rottten?

Carolyn Hax: Consider why boyfriend forgave you, and try seeing yourself in that light.

If it's bigger than that--if you know you have a tendency to be harsh and/or judgmental, and impulsive in the way you express yourself--then maybe this is a good time to look inward, to see why you're so tough on people. There might be an uncomfortable truth behind your comment that needs your attention. (Anger, insecurity, envy/jealousy are common candidates here.)


Carolyn Hax: A few random thoughts before I go ...


Post Doc: Before you give it to anyone to read it through, read it aloud to yourself. One of the best bits of advice I ever got, from one of my college professors - you'll spot so much more, because you'll hear it/stumble over bad spots, etc.

Carolyn Hax: True that.


Md: To me flying solo with twins is crazy. In the event of a real emergency you won't be able to handle both kids simultaneously and will be dependent incrhe kindness of strangers. Low odds but not worth the risk in my opinion.

Carolyn Hax: Someone else suggested airlines wouldn't even allow it. Something to ponder either way.


Rabbits Calling: okay, while waiting for a refresh, my eye wandered to the headlines to the right . . . which made me wonder why rabbits were calling on Fox News to do anything, until I realized it says "rabbis" . . . is it Friday yet??

Carolyn Hax: Friday, 3:09 pm.


Philadelphia, PA: Post-doc frenzy: Per new NIH rules, if you submit now, you have only until the deadline to 'fix' any upload issues, so follow Carolyn's advice and submit either today or tomorrow.

Carolyn Hax: Posting, not verifying ...


Day late and a dollar short ... but: I love this (and will probably use it): "I can feel my brain gnomes stroking my pessimistic lobe." Not to make light of the chatter's difficulties, but on the bright side you do have a unique ability to express yourself.

Carolyn Hax: And you have a unique ability to recall phrases if you happen to get into one of the very few situations where this applies, and you have the presence of mind to use it.


for Walla Walla: Don't fly with babies! As disorienting and difficult as security is with artificial limbs and lack of mobility, it's 10x worse with babies, and 100x worse with TWO babies. Every time I fly (and I'm just fine with flying by myself -), when I see young parents with babies/toddlers I pity them.

On top of which, when my children (now in their 20's) were small, hubby and I drove the NJ Turnpike every year for Thanksgiving, and in retrospect, I was a sucker and an idiot for going along with that. Once every 3 o 4 years, OK, but in general the NY/NJ relatives could damn well have come to see us instead. It was hell to travel with squirmy, miserable toddlers.

If/when I'm a grandma, I'll do the traveling. I would never put my children through the "traveling with babies" ordeal.

- I'm fine with flying by myself now, but I used to have an extreme fear of both heights and flying. When my daughter went to college 1500 miles away, I flew anyway, because I wanted to see her. After flying several times a year for the years she was in college/grad school, and again while son was in college, I gradually got over my fear of flying. So, afraid? Suck it up. Have babies? Don't do it!

Carolyn Hax: And with that supportive screed, I'll pack it in.

Thanks all, have a great weekend and hope to see you here next week.


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.

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